This article is part of a series on figures who have declared their intentions to run for Milpitas City Council or Mayor of Milpitas for the November general election. The filing period for candidacy opened on July 13 and will close on August 7. Two City Council seats and the Mayor’s seat are up for grabs this November. The entire series can be found here.
Mayor Rich Tran officially declared his bid for reelection this week, confirming his now one-year-old, not-so-secret plan to run for a third term as mayor.
The now two-term mayor took office in 2016, becoming the first Vietnamese-American mayor in the city’s history. He handily won reelection in 2018, topping his second-closest opponent by 21 percentage points. During his two terms in office, Milpitas has seen a revitalization of the city’s midtown, a push for greener spaces, and Tran’s no-nonsense approach to market-rate housing. He, along with his council colleagues, also takes credit for keeping the city’s youth theatre afloat—although with altered practice hours—after the program was in serious jeopardy of being shut down.
But the self-proclaimed homegrown mayor has also been known for his less-than-ideal intra-council conflicts. His colleagues rebuked him for a lack of “professionalism” in 2017. In 2018, Tran and fellow Vietnamese-American Councilmember Anthony Phan experienced a public falling out, which has since been patched over.
Perhaps the lengthiest spat Tran’s been involved in is the still-ongoing clash between him and Councilmember Karina Dominguez, which culminated in a Tran-led initiative to strip Dominguez of her Vice Mayor title just a year into her term in favor of “shared leadership.” Tran’s former second-in-command recently shot back, labeling the mayor as “unsavory” and “grossly unacceptable.”
But despite his clashes on the council, Tran said he’s proud of the work he and his fellow councillors have gotten done over the past four years.
“I’m very pleased with how city council’s cohesion has evolved over my past two terms.” Tran said. “There’s been improvement on the council from my first term.”
He added, “I don’t see any one-on-one or any individual conflict.”
Instead, Tran has asked residents to look at his voting record. In his eyes, his voting record is his most reliable case for reelection.
Like with his first campaign in 2016, Tran promises to consistently push for affordable housing, including a commitment to zero new market-rate housing—a promise he’s kept throughout both of his terms. In his almost-four years on the council, he has supported only one market-rate housing project, with the caveat that there would be adequate affordable housing for residents in the form of ADUs.
“I’ve never given real estate developers a multi-million-dollar tax break,” Tran said.
As Tran’s now-familiar campaign slogan, “Milpitas Families First,” begins to pop up on his Facebook page, the mayor said he’s hopeful voters will recognize he’s always voted “with the residents in mind.”
Similar to his last campaign, Tran is looking to bring a fresh face with him to the council. Tran has thus endorsed Evelyn Chua, a commissioner from the city’s planning commission, in her city council run. Tran said it was Chua’s community involvement and commitment and track record of public service that won him over.
“These are the characteristics that are going to be invaluable in City Hall,” said Tran. “She’s pragmatic, she’s a critical thinker, she’s a leader. I know as we conduct the city’s business, I know any item put before her, she will surely represent the residents and provide leadership at a high level.”
This of course means one less endorsement to dole out to his current colleagues running for reelection, Phan and Vice Mayor Bob Nuñez. Though he’s had skirmishes with both men before, Tran said he’s only concerned with “putting the best five out there” when it comes to the council, even at the cost of switching out incumbents for a fresh face.
The avid basketball fan offered a Golden State Warriors-themed analogy:
“It’s hard saying goodbye to a player who’s great,” Tran opined. “But you kind of have to say bye to trade for a player so that you can keep winning championships.”
Chua’s support could mean an easier path to new policy should Tran win a third term, as he’s already formed a friendly alliance with Councilmember Carmen Montano.
Tran officially pulled candidacy papers earlier this week. At press time, Tran’s only opponent so far is retired geologist Voltaire Montemayor. Montemayor is a member of the Milpitas Lion’s Club and the Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association, and an active participant at Milpitas City Council meetings. He previously ran for mayor in 2018 and 2016, and for a City Council seat in 2014, losing all three bids.
Dominguez, whose name has been bandied about as a potential opponent for Tran, has declined to enter the mayoral race.
Current position: Mayor (December 2016-present)
Running for: Reelection
Declared candidacy: July 15, 2019