The San Jose mayoral race took a strange turn Tuesday when the police union-backed candidate, Dave Cortese, called for a change in leadership of that union.
The call came after a former police cadet wrote an opinion piece in the Mercury News accusing the union president of urging recruits to quit because of ongoing pension reform fights with the city.
Cortese caused a stir with his statements, but his opponent Sam Liccardo called the statements “murky.”
Political analysts say the two candidates have staked out positions that intertwine around the police staffing issue: Cortese, backed by unions, stresses public safety, and Liccardo focuses more on the fiscal issues.
So it was a surprise to many to hear Cortese call for a change in union leadership after the former cadet made her accusations that union president Jim Unland was encouraging recruits to quit. The former cadet later reportedly said in an interview Unland did not literally tell cadets to “quit.” Still, Cortese said a change is needed.
"We need the public to know that these kind of toxic relationships are going to go away,” Cortese said, “and we're going to get back to the business of helping people and theirs neighborhoods and not be distracted."
Liccardo wants an investigation into whether the union is sabotaging police recruiting.
"The union bosses are inviting other recruiters from other cities to come to the union hall and recruit officers away,” Liccardo said.
Two Polls were released Tuesday. A labor-backed poll showed Cortese opening up a 12 percent lead, but a Liccardo campaign poll indicates their candidate has a slight 3 percent lead. San Jose State University political Analyst Melinda Jackson said that's not surprising with so many undecided voters. Jackson said, in her view, Cortese might have a slight edge because public safety may be a higher priority than pension reform at this point.