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Year of the Woman in South Bay Elections

As American voters sent a record-high 124 women to Congress in Tuesday’s elections, voters in Santa Clara County also entrusted female candidates with the most powerful local political posts. If results as of Saturday evening hold, 45 of the 91 members of the 15 city councils in the county will be women, as will 2 of 5 members of the County Board of Supervisors.

Susan Ellenberg, who spoke forcefully on gender inequality and other forms of discrimination during her campaign for County Supervisor, leads rival Don Rocha with a convincing 57 percent of votes cast. Pam Foley leads rival school board member Kalen Gallagher with 53 percent of votes cast to represent District 9 on the San Jose City Council, while Maya Esparza will oust incumbent Tam Nguyen in District 7 with just 51 percent of votes in a rematch of their 2014 contest for the seat.

Maya Esparza (left) and Pam Foley (right) were elected to the San Jose City Council in Tuesday’s mid-term elections.

San Jose’s 11-member City Council will now include five women: newly elected Esparza and Foley, and Magdalena Carrasco (elected 2014), Sylvia Arenas (2016), and Dev Davis (2016). Ellenberg will join Cindy Chavez, a San Jose council member from 1999 to 2007, on the Board of Supervisors along with three male colleagues.

City council members of all 15 cities in Santa Clara County will include 45 women and 46 men when the terms of the newly-elected begin in January, a major shift from the 34 women and 59 men serving on the 15 city councils today. Next year Los Altos will have an all-female city council after Tuesday’s election of Neysa Fligor and Anita Enander.

Los Altos’ fabulous all-female City Council: Neysa Fligor, Anita Enander, Lynette Lee Eng, Jeannie Bruins, and Jan Pepper (from left).

Santa Clara’s City Council will now include six women and one man, Raj Chahal, an Indian immigrant and the council’s first non-white member. Newly-elected Karen Hardy will fill the seat vacated by former council member Dominic Caserta, who resigned after the long history of sexual harassment and emotional abuse of his own high school students became known to the public in early May.

Six of the 15 cities in the county now feature female-majority councils: Campbell, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Mountain View, and Santa Clara, while only two cities will remain with male “super-majorities” in which men comprise two-thirds or more of council members: Gilroy and Sunnyvale. Currently eight cities in the county have such male super-majorities, including San Jose and Palo Alto.