Mountain View City Council member Margaret Abe-Koga declared her candidacy for county supervisor on Wednesday, setting up a duel with former Saratoga mayor Kathleen King -- if Joe Simitian doesn't enter the race.
Mountain View's current representative on the Santa Clara County board of supervisors, Palo Alto's Liz Kniss, will term out of the District 5 seat at the end of 2012, leaving residents of the North County to select a replacement.
With nine months to go before the June primary election, Mountain View Vice Mayor Mike Kasperzak said "the great unknown" in the race is whether Joe Simitian, the popular state senator from Palo Alto, would be a candidate. Simitian has yet to announce one way or the other.
Kasperzak has expressed interest in entering the race, but said, "If Joe runs, I'm definitely not running."
"There are a lot of people who think he's going to run," Kasperzak said. "If he runs, he'll be the hands-down winner."
Mountain View council member Laura Macias has also expressed interest in entering the race, but like Kasperzak, she said she would not run against Simitian and is holding off on her decision.
"I believe that Joe Simitian is the best person to serve in the county seat," she said. "His ability to cut through extraneous data and see a practical solution is second to none. We need a county supervisor and board to make tough choices -- such as collapsing the administrative structures of VTA and putting the Santa Clara Valley Water District back under Santa Clara County's government. I would propose that and encourage Joe to do the same."
Without Simitian, a race between King and Abe-Koga could be a close one. Both have years of experience on city councils and are well connected county-wide. Assemblyman Paul Fong has apparently been unable to pick only one, as both candidates say they have his endorsement, according to King's website and comments from Abe-Koga Wednesday.
King is a former Saratoga mayor and eight-year Saratoga council member who is now executive director of the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation. The foundation provides health care for children who do not have health insurance, which the organization calls "a basic human right." King says her son would have died from a rare disorder if he had not had health insurance, an experience that she says motivated her to quit her sales executive job at Applied Materials to promote community and children's health.
Abe-Koga is on her fifth year on the City Council, served as mayor in 2009, and has become familiar with county-wide issues as a former member of the County Board of Education and as the appointed chair of the Valley Transportation Authority's regional board. She's consistently been a top fundraiser in City Council elections.
Abe-Koga had no criticisms of county services, which she said usually serve the most in need. Her concern is that those services are at risk unless more cost-effective service delivery methods can be found. She said that unlike cities, the county has no good options for increasing revenues as costs increase.
Kasperzak said he was leaning towards not running because other plans would leave little time for campaigning: his interest in being mayor next year, his wish to be involved in the presidential election and the likelihood of his being president of League of California Cities next year.
Similarly, Macias said "as a working person and a sitting council member, I do not know that I have enough hours in the day to gather $200,000 for a campaign."
District Five 5 Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, the northwestern half of Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto.