SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Last week’s election has reshaped the composition of the Santa Clara City Council and shifted the balance of power in a city known for its contentious relationship with its professional sports team the 49ers.
“There is a perception that people are trying to buy a city council or are trying to buy an election. I think the people who know me and the people who have been following my career know that I am not going to be bought by a team,” says newly elected Santa Clara City Councilmember Kevin Park.
In Tuesday’s election, Park managed to unseat incumbent Teresa O’Neill, who has been one of Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s strongest allies on the council.
“The point that I’m trying to get across is I didn’t do this for the 49ers. I did this for Santa Clara,” Park said.
Mayor Gillmor and her allies on the city council, Teresa O’Neill, Kathy Watanabe and Debi Davis, have lead a years-long campaign for greater oversight and accountability for the 49ers and their management of Levi’s Stadium. The relationship between the city and the team has been adversarial at best and occasionally downright acrimonious.
The three newcomers elected to the city council have promised to reset the city’s relationship with the 49ers.
“I actually think I lost a lot of votes because of allegations saying that I would not be independent. I have always been independent. I have always opposed special interests,” says Suds Jain.
49ers CEO Jed York poured $3 million into a political action committee which ran independent ads in support of candidates who were running against the mayor and her council allies.
Some voters say they hope the election ushers in a new era of cooperation.
“I definitely looked into who was running in Santa Clara and if they had any history of working with the 9ers versus not working with them. So, that definitely swung my vote,” says voter Sal Duenez.
Others remain skeptical.
“The 49ers are not a crazy company. Why are they spending all of this money? They wouldn’t spend this kind of money if they were getting something out of it,” says voter Junaid Shaikh.