Does Magdalena Carrasco have a chance in her race against incumbent Xavier Campos in San Jose Council District 5? You would think that she would: Campos has been bogged down by his relationship with disgraced ex-Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. and by the embezzlement investigation at MACSA, where he served as chief operating officer. Now a poll done for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce shows Carrasco with a narrow but perceptible lead.

The poll of 400 people in the district, done by SmithJohnson Research, shows Carrasco ahead with 29.4 percent, followed by 24.1 percent for Campos and 6 percent for Aaron Resendez. Take it with a grain of salt: In the light-voting Fifth District, labor has traditionally turned out on Election Day for the Camposes, whether it be for Xavier or his sister, Nora, who now sits in the state Assembly. Still, it suggests that a solid labor seat on the council could be in peril. FYI: Jim Reed, the vice-president of public policy for the chamber, told us that the pollsters had asked nothing before to skew the results.

Democrat Liccardo's ad addresses conservatives


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With a comfortable chunk of change in the bank, San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo starred airing his first cable television ad on Wednesday in the mayor's race. It sounds vaguely, well, Republican. Not that Liccardo is switching parties: He's a committed Democrat.

But in a nonpartisan primary, he is clearly making a push to capture the 20-odd percent of San Joseans who are registered with the GOP -- plus those independents who lean conservative fiscally.

The ad begins with a woman's voice-over as wine fills a glass at a high-end dinner:

"For years, San Jose politicians spent like there was no tomorrow, racking millions and millions in debt without worrying who was going to be stuck paying the tab," the woman intones. A diner then hands the bill to a gap-toothed kid who opens his mouth in astonishment.

As the scene changes to show Liccardo talking with constituents downtown, the voice-over continues: "Sam Liccardo says government can do better without having to spend more." She adds that the councilman has worked with Mayor Chuck Reed to "reform pensions and streamline government" so the city could afford to hire more cops. (Never mind that many of the new recruits seem unwilling to stay around. Nuances don't work well in a 30-second spot.)

"Sam Liccardo for mayor," the ad continues. "Because he knows spending smarter means we won't stick our kids with the tab."

The piece ends with the kid shaking his piggy bank for loose change -- and even we hardened political veterans had to wonder about his unfunded liabilities.

Ritchie doesn't receive labor endorsement

The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council has declined to open its deep political purse for Santa Clara County Judge Diane Ritchie, dealing a major blow to her re-election campaign.

The council did not endorse either of the other candidates in the race, prosecutor Matt Harris or defense attorney Annrae Angel, bestowing its dollar-laden blessing only on prosecutor Julianne Sylva, who's battling defense lawyer Dennis Lempert in another race for a retired judge's seat. So why does losing this endorsement matter?

It's not widely recognized, but Ritchie didn't win her first six-year term in 2008 just because she was the only woman running in the primary against four men: prosecutors Lane Liroff, Tim Pitsker and now-chief-assistant DA Jay Boyarsky, as well as court commissioner Jesus Valencia.

Two other factors played into her ultimate victory against veteran homicide prosecutor Liroff in the general election. She benefited from the influx of lots of young, liberal voters who went to the polls to vote for President Barack Obama. And labor also supported her campaign, big-time. (She is a former labor lawyer who worked as a staff attorney for the California School Employees Association for more than a decade.)

Ritchie, who has personal cash at her disposal, can still buy her way onto slate mailers. And she enjoys the incumbent's advantage, no small thing in a down-ballot primary race.

We should note that the laboristas didn't want to tell us the endorsement results. They were feeling peevish about our earlier report noting that the judicial endorsement recommendations would be overseen by their executive officer Ben Field, who had his law license suspended for four years for misconduct.

"If you want favors from me," labor council flack Stacey Hendler Ross wrote when we inquired, "you shouldn't keep dragging my boss's name through the mud."

Nguyen comments about police come as surprise

Of all the hot-button issues in the race for San Jose mayor, there's no topic hotter that police staffing. Residents are angry because crime is up and arrests are down as the police department can't even find applicants to fill about 200 vacant officer positions.

So IA was rather surprised at the public comments made Thursday by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, one of the candidates to replace termed-out Mayor Chuck Reed in the June 3 primary.

"We don't have a problem. We have so many people that want to come and want to be a San Jose police officer," she said at a City Council committee meeting on public safety, referring to the issue of police recruitment. She was struck by the numbers that showed the city had gotten nearly 1,400 eligible applicants for an upcoming recruit academy, easily the highest in years.

Deputy Chief Dave Knopf replied that many more of those recruits than in prior years were applying to several cities and wound up taking jobs elsewhere. So the total number of initial applicants didn't mean much since so few recruits actually wound up choosing to work in San Jose.

Knopf replied that, considering the city could only fill half of the 60-slot cop recruit academy that starts next month, "we do have a problem."

But Nguyen was again undeterred: "To say that hardly anyone wants to come work for the police department, I just want to publicly make a statement that that is not very accurate information from the media reporting we've heard in the last two years and also from the police officers association," she said.

Nguyen later clarified her comments, acknowledging that the city had a problem in retaining officers. But she wanted to make clear that it wasn't fair for critics to say the city was struggling to even get applications from potential cops.

"I'm just talking about recruitment -- trying to dispel these innuendos that people aren't interested in applying for the San Jose police academy," she told IA. "The problem is retention vs. recruitment."

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Tracey Kaplan, Mike Rosenberg and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-920-5782.