Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese's bid for San Jose mayor is riding on the message that the city must strengthen its police department.
Cortese's campaign mailers describe San Jose as a "crime-ravaged city" desperately in need of more cops.
But the San Jose Mercury News notes that his opponent, San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo, is taking a different tack: "fiscal responsibility and pension reform."
The two issues appear to be interrelated: a battle over pensions has led some San Jose police officers to depart the force for other departments where their retirement funds have gone untouched, or touched less, the newspaper reported.
The issues were again highlighted Monday night during a debate held at eBay.
Under Cortese, cops could expect to find more funding. In response, police are backing his push for mayor, which is taking the crime message to heart.
Liccardo, however, has the endorsement of outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed, and is "doubling-down" on being a fiscal conservative in the mailers that are going out to "413,000 registered voters" before Nov. 4, the newspaper reported.
Garrick Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State University professor, said voters in the next month will likely notice the candidates drawing clear distinctions, using aggressive tactics.
"Sam Liccardo is saying Cortese doesn't have the right math and Dave saying he's the best candidates to keep the city safe," Percival said.
The themes are made clear on the newest campaign mailers.
A mailer sent out by Liccardo's campaign shows Cortese next to a pile of credit cards -- a clear attack on his financial record.
"We've got to have the money if we're going to restore the police department or restore a lot of other services," Liccardo said.
Cortese called the mailer a "fear tactic to tell people we don't have the money."
"There's 140 positions that are funded, but unfilled in the mayor's budget right now," he said.
Cortese also said San Jose needs to compete financially with other Bay Area cities to hire and retain officers.
Meanwhile, Liccardo said if elected he plans to utilize more civilians in the police department and credits the current administration for a drop in overall crime rates.
"We're proving here in San Jose that we can be safer by being smarter," Liccardo said. "It's not simply about throwing money at pensions."