BY EMILY MIBACH
AND BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writers
Competitive races have sprung up for seats on the San Mateo and Santa Clara county boards of supervisors where two longtime Peninsula politicians are termed out.
In San Mateo County, voters in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, North Fair Oaks and Menlo Park will vote to replace termed-out Supervisor Warren Slocum, who has been on the board since 2010 and before that was the county’s Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder and Chief Elections Officer. Running to replace him are criminal justice reformer Paul Bocanegra, Stanford employee Celeste Brevard, former Slocum staffer Maggie Cornejo and East Palo Alto council members Lisa Gauthier and Antonio Lopez.
Paul Bocanegra, 48, of Redwood City is on the county’s Juvenile Justice Commission and is one of the founders of the sheriff’s watchdog group Fixin’ San Mateo County.
Bocanegra is a juvenile criminal justice reform advocate after he was sentenced to life without parole when he was 17 and served more than 25 years in an adult prison for his role in a drive-by gang shooting.
He was paroled in 2017 due to a bill that allowed youths sentenced to life without parole when they were children, to have a parole hearing, and was discharged from parole in 2021. He lives in Eagle Hill with his wife. He’s worked with state Sen. Josh Becker on reducing prices at prison canteens. Bocanegra has raised $21,360 according to finance records. His endorsements include Supervisor David Canepa, Redwood City Vice Mayor Lissette Espinoza-Garnica and Sequoia Union High School District trustee Sathvik Nori.
Celeste Brevard, 31, of North Fair Oaks, works for Stanford in the Humanities and Sciences department. She began her professional career at Cirque du Soleil. After living in New Zealand, Australia and Japan, she moved to New York City and got her master’s degree from NYU in International Relations and has worked at a variety of businesses and nonprofits, including the United Nations.
She lives in North Fair Oaks with her husband and says she has a vision for the community, which includes sustainability, a thriving education system, equity and housing. Brevard is a proponent of residents being able to easily reach out to their elected officials and at a recent debate brought up the idea of a program where residents can write to their supervisor’s office and communicate “in real time.” Brevard has not filed any finance forms with the county and has not listed any endorsers on her website.
Maggie Cornejo, 31, of Redwood City, is the director of government and community relations for the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula. She was a legislative aide to Slocum, working in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood on behalf of his office. Cornejo was born and raised in North Fair Oaks by her parents who are Mexican immigrants. She attended Garfield School and Menlo-Atherton High School. She says she understands the challenges that many people in the district deal with — job insecurity, housing instability and immigration issues.
Her priorities include housing, public safety and fighting climate change. She has raised $36,342 and her endorsers include Sheriff Christina Corpus, Supervisor Noelia Corzo, Redwood City Councilmen Chris Sturken and Elmer Martinez-Saballos and East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica.
Lisa Gauthier, 58, of East Palo Alto, has been on the East Palo Alto City Council for 10 years, she says she was encouraged to run in 2012 by her daughter. Gauthier was raised in East Palo Alto by her single mother. She is a senior vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Gauthier says she wants to make sure people believe that the government will work for them and will have an open-door policy for residents.
Under her most recent turn as mayor in 2023, the city hired a new city manager and police chief, sought out getting speed bumps installed on a road after a hit-and-run death and voted down a controversial home-selling law called the Opportunity to Purchase Act. She has raised $84,507 and boasts the endorsements of Slocum, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, state Sen. Josh Becker, Supervisors Dave Pine and Ray Mueller, Assembly members Diane Papan and Marc Berman and late supervisor and former sheriff Don Horsley.
Antonio Lopez, 29, of East Palo Alto, is the city’s current mayor. He was elected to council in 2020, saying he was inspired to run while watching residents deal with the hardships of Covid. He grew up in East Palo Alto and was the first in his family to attend college. Lopez has been attending Stanford to get his doctorate in modern thought and literature. After being elected, Lopez worked with Sen. Josh Becker and county officials to increase the vaccination rate in East Palo Alto, which was far behind its neighboring cities.
He was a swing vote on the recent Opportunity to Purchase Act, initally voting yes on the ordinance before changing his vote at the ordinance’s second hearing. The act would have allowed tenants, nonprofits and the city to have a right to match any bid a homeowner has if he or she plans to sell their home.
Lopez has raised $127,733.60 and has endorsements from Attorney General Rob Bonta, Supervisors David Canepa and Noelia Corzo, former Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale and San Mateo County Community College trustee John Pimentel.
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
In Santa Clara County, Joe Simitian is termed out after 12 years on the board. He’s been in the state Assembly and Senate, the Palo Alto school board and City Council. He is now running for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s seat. Four contenders are facing off to replace Simitian, who represents Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Saratoga and Los Gatos.
Mountain View Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga appears to be leading the way, at least when it comes to fundraising.
Abe-Koga, 53, has raised $245,308 through Jan. 20, boosted by local unions for firefighters, deputy sheriffs, management employees and service workers. Her priorities are safe neighborhoods, advocacy for small businesses and strong fiscal leadership.
Abe-Koga is supported by three of her fellow council members — Lisa Matichak, Lucas Ramirez and Pat Showalter.
Abe-Koga ran for the seat in 2012 but dropped out after Simitian, then a state senator, announced that he was running. Simitian has held the seat ever since and is in his final term.
Sally Lieber, 62, a member of the state Board of Equalization, was the second candidate to enter the race in April last year. She has raised $27,765 and loaned herself $135,000, campaign finance forms show.
Abe-Koga and Lieber used to work together on Mountain View City Council before Lieber resigned in December 2022 to join a state board that deals with taxation.
Lieber was in the state Assembly from 2002 to 2008, where she is perhaps best known for introducing a bill that would prohibit parents from spanking their children. Lieber’s priorities are affordable housing, child care and ensuring county employees have a voice at work.
Three more candidates started their campaigns later in the year.
Peter Fung, an El Camino Healthcare District board member, said that he is different from the other candidates because he is not a career politician.
“They have just been climbing up the ladder and want to go to a higher position,” said Fung, 76. “I have no intention of doing that.”
Fung was elected to the board of the El Camino Healthcare District in 2014, beating out Abe-Koga.
Fung has a stroke center at El Camino Hospital named in his honor and co-founded a Chinese Health Initiative.
Fung has raised $8,447 and loaned himself $80,000, campaign finance forms show.
Two more candidates — Sandy Sans of Los Altos and former Cupertino Councilman Barry Chang — haven’t raised any money.
Low-key San Mateo County races
Back in San Mateo County, two other supervisor seats on the ballot have garnered much quieter races. Former Congresswoman Jackie Speier is facing off against Millbrae Councilwoman Ann Schneider to replace termed-out supervisor Dave Pine. That district represents Burlingame, Hillsborough, San Bruno, Millbrae and part of South San Francisco. Speier’s announcement in September surprised the county and washed away the brewing race between Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach and Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan. No one is running against David Canepa, who represents Daly City, South San Francisco, Brisbane and Colma.