In any election, the losers aren't necessarily on the ballot. San Jose Police Sgt. Jim Unland, the savvy president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, found himself on the defensive last week after election returns did not favor the cops. Unland is being challenged for the POA presidency by Jon Baker, a patrol officer and ally of Bobby Lopez, the ex-POA chief. The votes are due Nov. 20.

In an email attack, Baker listed POA setbacks -- the loss on binding arbitration in 2010, the Measure B pension reform, a 10 percent wage cut. He was particularly pointed about Tuesday's results, saying the cops had poured an estimated $200,000 into a losing effort to unseat Councilwoman Rose Herrera. He argued that the POA spent money trying to beat Magadalena Carrasco for the Eastside Union High School District board while doing nothing to help the POA-endorsed Robert Braunstein in a close race in council District 10.

An ex-POA board member who works part time in the bomb unit, Baker proposed firing political consultants Tom Saggau and Dustin DeRollo, building a coalition on the council willing to challenge Mayor Chuck Reed, and halting dues increases for political battles.

Unland declined to comment on his competition, but when IA asked the POA president whether he was experiencing any backlash from Tuesday's results, he said: "I think anyone who is predisposed to vote against me will vote against me." The veteran sergeant has been president for one year. He says he'll retire in January 2015.

Milpitas challenger loses race but gets his sign

Milpitas resident Rob Means may have lost his battle for mayor against incumbent Jose Esteves last week, but in some sense he won the wider war. At a meeting on election night, a good time for burying unwelcome news, the Milpitas City Council approved a pact with Means that will allow him to continue to display a 26-by-16 inch sign that says, "We are the 99 percent."

You may remember the sign kicked off a constitutional battle a year ago when Milpitas officials tried to make Means take it down. After Means made no headway at City Hall, he contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit against Milpitas.

The agreement provides that the city will suspend the enforcement of its sign ordinance until it completes a comprehensive review. Put another way, City Hall is holding up a white flag -- and agreeing to pay $20,000 for the ACLU legal bills.

We asked whether the city would preserve the right to such signs after the review, and ACLU attorney Alan Schlosser said this: "I'm quite convinced they will. I got the impression that they understood that's what the Constitution requires."

We can now open our mailboxes without fear

For a slew of candidates, it's been an exhausting three-month campaign, crafting ballot statements, soliciting contributions, pounding the precinct pavement, countering hit pieces and collaring voters.

So it's no surprise that the candidates, especially the victorious ones, are happy Nov. 6 has come and gone. "I'm exhausted," said Craig Mann, the erstwhile Santa Clara County School Board member who just ousted 20-year trustee Richard Tanaka from the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District.

The best part?

"I'm just happy the election is over so I don't see any more stuff from the District 8 race in my mailbox," said Mann, referring to the storm of mailers from the Rose Herrera and Jimmy Nguyen campaigns. "I feel emancipated not having to see all that stuff."

Herrera's victory leaves union leader seething

Not only was the race for San Jose City Council District 8 one of the ugliest in city history. Officially it was a battle between incumbent Rose Herrera and political newcomer Jimmy Nguyen. Unofficially, among her biggest behind-the-scenes foes was South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council leader Cindy Chavez.

Unions had supported Herrera in her 2008 general election run for council. But over the years, Herrera disappointed them by voting with Mayor Chuck Reed, Chavez's 2006 mayoral rival, to impose pay cuts and pension reforms on unionized city workers, which Herrera argued was an unfortunate necessity amid budget deficits to prevent greater layoffs.

But neither the union ground game in District 8 nor its hefty pocketbook -- hundreds of thousands of city and county union employee dollars in campaign contributions and independent expenditures -- succeeded in knocking Herrera out of office.

The day after, Chavez seethed over the result.

"I think Rose Herrera is unfit to serve," Chavez said, even calling Herrera "corrupt." But she added: "We have to respect the will of the voters."

For her part, Herrera said of her refusal to budge against pension reform: "You pay a price for standing up for what's right. We have to move forward and fix this problem for the city or we will be facing bankruptcy."

She said that at one point she considered dropping the city campaign contribution limit -- which was about $128,000 in the general election cycle -- knowing how much would be spent on her defeat.

"But I thought that it's better to live within those rules, even though it was like fighting with one arm behind your back," Herrera said.

Besides, she said, "If I were a union member, I would be pretty upset with the way my money was spent and wasted. I would be wondering, 'What are you doing with my dues?'"‰"

Herrera also isn't the first to wonder whether former District 8 city councilman turned Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who may be contemplating a run for San Jose mayor in 2014, wasted some political capital by backing the likes of Patricia Martinez-Roach against her in the primary and Nguyen in the runoff.

"I think he'll find out the next time he runs how much it cost him with voters," Herrera said.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Sharon Noguchi, Tracy Seipel and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-975-9346.