The Santa Clara County Democratic Party pulled its endorsement of Gilroy City Councilmember Fred Tovar, saying his policy positions are in “direct conflict” with the party’s platform.
On a unanimous vote Sept. 8, the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee approved a resolution rescinding the endorsement it made in 2020.
The resolution stated that Tovar’s voting history “has harmed the residents and employees of Gilroy” through his positions opposing policies that “foster transit-oriented development,” along with “voting against renter protection,” among other issues it outlines.
Tovar has also repeatedly endorsed Republican candidates, even when “qualified Democratic candidates have entered the race,” the resolution continues.
The resolution was submitted to the Central Committee by fellow Gilroy City Councilmember Zach Hilton, along with Joanne Fierro, Rebecca Scheel, Claudia Rossi, Sousan Manteghi and Kathy Chavez Napoli.
“When you get an endorsement, it means you are aligned with the values and mission of that organization,” Hilton said, adding that it is rare for the local party to pull an endorsement. “That’s why you chose to seek their endorsement and that’s the expectation from that organization. You carry the endorsement throughout your election cycle. When someone starts to move away consistently from that alignment, it’s up to others to bring that forward.”
Hilton pointed out that Tovar voted to request a delay in a proposed housing project at the Gilroy Transit Center in 2021, and earlier that year joined the majority of the council in opposition of a local eviction moratorium for tenants affected by Covid-19. More recently, Tovar in August voted against a motion from Hilton to require all new buildings to be fully powered by electricity.
Tovar has also endorsed Dion Bracco for his council reelection bid, who is a Republican running in a nonpartisan race, as well as former Republican Johnny Khamis, a District 1 county supervisor candidate who is opposed by the local Democratic Party.
Tovar said he is “disappointed and disheartened” by the party’s decision to rescind its endorsement.
“As a life-long Democrat, dedicated to advancing the party’s ideals throughout my entire life and career, it is a shame to see how partisan politics can cloud good judgment and triumph over collaboration,” he said.
In a letter to Bill James, chair of the Central Committee, Tovar wrote that the decision “is not only unnecessary, it is short-sighted and uncalled for.”
“If my endorsement is to be removed because of my record of collaboration, of championing the cause of those in greatest need, and of recognizing the values of bipartisanship that this country and the Democratic Party itself was founded upon, then so be it,” he wrote. “However, I would respectfully ask that your recommendation be reconsidered and withdrawn instead.”
Tovar said that during his time on the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education and San Jose-Evergreen College Board, he fought for diversity in hiring, along with better pay for staff and for programs to ensure equal opportunity.
First elected to the council in 2016, Tovar said he has worked to support local small businesses, and has served on committees for the unhoused and downtown.
He added that elected officials should put partisanship aside and work for the “betterment of the community, not the betterment of political parties.”
“Extremism on both sides of the political spectrum will never solve the problems we face as a nation, nor at the state level, and they certainly will not solve the problems we face here in Gilroy,” he wrote.
Tovar was reelected to his seat in 2020, with his term ending in 2024. For the 2022 election, the local Democratic Party endorsed Jan Bernstein Chargin, Joseph Robinson and Ronald Robinson Jr. to fill the three open council seats.