Fact check: San Jose council member under fire for absences

The presence of Maya Esparza, a member of the San Jose council, is the latest salvo launched by a group of real estate agents supporting her political opponent.

The California Association of Realtors PAC has sent out at least two letters saying it has missed four important votes since taking office on reducing gang crime, affordable housing and increases to public services. The meetings, which took place between June 2019 and March 2022, were among 22 board and committee meetings she has missed since 2019, according to a review by San Jose Spotlight.

The political action committee cited minutes from the San Jose meeting, which may be in error because they are based on a roll call of council members at the start of the meeting when many are not yet in their seats. . A similar tactic in 2016 falsely accused Assemblyman Ash Kalra of missing council meetings, but was debunked.

Esparza fends off challenger Bien Doan, a fire captain, during his re-election bid on Tuesday. The PAC supported Doan.

Political postage paid by the California Association of Realtors PAC.
Political postage paid by the California Association of Realtors PAC.

Esparza, who was elected in 2018, admitted missing all three of those meetings but said most of her absences were for good reason.

Nick Kaspar, Esparza’s campaign manager, said she became the primary caretaker for an injured family member who is now recovering this year. The meetings she missed before 2022 were due to her illness, Kaspar said. He also said Esparza was known to be in the community.

“Maya has held over 50 Dumpster Days, that’s 50 Saturdays, which has resulted in the removal of over a million pounds of trash from our neighborhoods,” Kaspar told San Jose Spotlight. “Realtors are trying to say Maya isn’t here because they’re supporting a candidate who just moved to the district to run for office.”

Gina Zari, director of government affairs for the California Association of Realtors, said she chose to focus on Esparza’s attendance record because of voter complaints.

“After researching the candidates, it was clear that Maya has an unprecedented number of absences which has led to poor representation of her constituents,” Zari told San Jose Spotlight. “We are confident that Bien will be a better representative.”

City documents reviewed by San José Spotlight support the claim that Esparza only took days off because she was sick or had to care for a sick family member.

Esparza’s campaign said she was present for other important votes and led efforts to reduce gang violence.

“She also got more funding to expand (a city program) to gang prevention and intervention programs for our youth,” Kaspar added.

Political postage paid by the California Association of Realtors PAC.
Political postage paid by the California Association of Realtors PAC.

San Jose saw an avalanche of attack ads in the weeks leading up to Election Day, and the California Association of Realtors got its fair share of bashing.

During the primaries, the PAC sent letters that criticized Assemblyman Alex Lee for his age and for living at home. The Silicon Valley Biz PAC, South Bay Labor Council and several campaigns have also been criticized for a slew of misleading or racist senders.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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