City councilman Sam Liccardo declared victory in the San Jose mayoral race on Wednesday, even though there were more than 100,000 ballots left to count as he held a 2 percent lead over his opponent.
"It's time to get to work on the business of this city," Sam Liccardo told reporters after he declared victory in the San Jose mayoral race. "It's time to put the battles behind us."
His first orders on the agenda: improving safety and "broadening prosperity."
Liccardo said he called Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese on Wednesday morning, but the candidate declined to concede. "Although I congratulated Sam Liccardo this morning on running a great campaign, this race is still too close to call," Cortese told NBC Bay Area. "I'm confident in the democratic process and want everyone to understand that every vote does indeed count.
Liccardo said he felt confident his margin, albeit slim, would hold despite the estimated 100,000 ballots to be counted throughout Santa Clara County.
On Tuesday night, he waxed nostalgic about his journey: "We started 20 points behind in the polls, remember that? And we knew we'd be taking on formidable machines and we knew this wasn't going to be an easy task...I think we need to take a moment to honor this journey that we've all taken."
Liccardo, the outgoing member of the City Council for District 3, had 55,536 votes, or 51 percent, to 53,345, or 49 percent, for Cortese, with 492 of San Jose's 495 precincts reporting early Wednesday.
A major issue in the mayoral campaign was public safety, specifically how to fund additional police officers for a city force that has fallen by about 400 sworn officers in the past several years due to
retirements and resignations.
The winner of the contest will determine the shape of policies espoused by Liccardo and termed-out Mayor Chuck Reed -- controversial among police officers and firefighters -- about controlling pensions paid to the union-represented police and fire departments.
Cortese received heavy support from the San Jose Police Officers' Association, which represents police in labor contract negotiations with the city (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the union also represents firefighters). He said that he was running because "most of my life I just tried to be a good public servant, and that's all I need out of this." He gave a nod to his team of volunteers and staff who helped propel his campaign. He too, was "cautiously optomistic because we know we're in a tight race."
Candidates who appear aligned with the police union on the pension issue either won or were far ahead this morning in two of three open City Council races.
In City Council District 1, Charles "Chappie" Jones, endorsed by Liccardo and Reed, won the seat by a comfortable margin over Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-San Jose, who is leaving the state Legislature.
Jones had 6,431 votes, more than 60 percent of the vote, and Fong had drawn 4,233 votes, or close to 40 percent.
In the election to replace Liccardo in District 3, seven-year veteran San Jose police officer Raul Peralez, who has pledged to support his police colleagues on the Council, defeated Don Gagliardi, a Stanford law graduate and a member of the San Jose Downtown Association.
Peralez tallied 4,691 votes, or just above 59 percent, to 3,230, or almost 41 percent garnered by Gagliardi after ballots from all 43 precincts were counted.
In the race for District 7, lawyer and former computer engineer Tam Nguyen was well ahead of Maya Esparza, the former chief of staff of one-time San Jose Councilwoman Nora Campos, who is now a member of the State Assembly.
With 39 of 40 precincts reporting, Nguyen had picked up 4,731 votes, or just under 54 percent, compared to 4,068 for Esparza.
Nguyen, on his campaign website, left no doubt as to where he stood on pension reform, stating that he wanted to "increase police budget and pension" and have "more officers and safety patrol in residential areas."
Bay City News contributed to this report.