A Hearty Win for Ms. Hardy


Courtesy of Karen Hardy

In her time on the planning commission, Hardy helped approve the Rivermark development, a combination of retail and housing.

On November 6, voters across the country cast their votes in what was billed as the most important election of our time. While the media focused on national congressional candidates and gubernatorial races, for Wilcox families, it was a Santa Clara city council race where Wilcox teacher Karen Hardy was on the ballot that grabbed attention. And in a victory for her supporters, Hardy easily defeated opponent Srinivasan Sambathkumar, or Sam Kumar, with a whopping seventy-one percent of the vote.

Hardy has been a trail-blazer across multiple fields for years. She has been a role model for girls who want to pursue STEM careers, having taught math and computer science at Wilcox since 2007. In fact, she founded the first computer science program in the district and started the school’s robotics team. In addition, she is an advisor to both the Programming Club and Service Club at Wilcox.

According to her website, Hardy also has a great deal of relevant policy and planning experience, including having served on the City Planning Commision for eight years, the Historical and Landmarks Commission for five years, the Architectural Review Committee for two years, and the Charter Review Committee for one year. Additionally, she is currently the Chair of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, which, according to the City of Santa Clara, is responsible for, “the improvement and beautification of the community.” At a candidate forum in October, Hardy explained that she felt her tenure on the City Planning Commission, which advises the city council on development in the city, was her most unique qualification because it allowed her to, “understand the rules and realities of what development should and shouldn’t go in.”

With Silicon Valley experiencing unprecedented growth, largely due to tech companies like Apple and Facebook, a focus on how to balance rapidly growing retail and housing developments was central to Hardy’s campaign message. Hardy ran on a platform of improving traffic, upgrading parks, and following the city’s General Plan, a document which, according to the City of Santa Clara, “describes the long-term goals for the City’s future and guides daily decision making.” On her website, Hardy calls the traffic situation in Santa Clara, “frustrating.” She plans to improve the situation by synchronizing traffic lights and speeding up the resurfacing of El Camino Real. A local Santa Clara voter explains how this, along with the spike in major retail and housing developments in the city, was one of her main concerns when deciding who to vote for. In addition to improving traffic, Hardy would like to update the equipment at Machado Park, and make it easier for people to rent the clubhouse there. A large part of Hardy’s platform is her commitment to following the city’s General Plan, which she claims the city council has ignored by, “overbuilding with retail.” Hardy also leveraged her time on the City Planning Commission, saying the experience would better qualify her to maintain the General Plan.  

Meanwhile, her opponent focused on traffic solutions, after-school programs, and services for senior citizens. At a candidate forum in October, Kumar laid out his plan to aid the traffic situation, proposing increased use of mass transit, bicycles, and shuttle services to minimize congestion on the roads. Additionally, he promised to work to give senior citizens, “the best possible service and also facilities for them to enjoy.”  He also advocated for more after-school programs, such as tutoring and homework centers. At a candidate forum, Kumar informed the audience he felt his business background and ability to, “put challenging tasks on the table and get it resolved,” were his strongest points.

During the campaign, the election in District 3 was often controversial, and sometimes spawned personal attacks. For instance, Kumar took heat during a candidate forum when he called Hardy, “unqualified,” and suggested she was responsible for what he viewed as low standardized test scores at Wilcox. In a response published in the Santa Clara News, Hardy said she was, “hurt,” by what she called, “negative campaigning,” and, according to Santa Clara News, his statements were condemned by both councilwoman Teresa O’Neil and Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe. In addition to that, Kumar appeared to admit during that same forum that he only lives in Santa Clara on the weekends, which led a local blogger for the Silicon Valley Haystack to investigate his residency further, by checking his voting record. The website’s staff visited both the Alameda and Santa Clara Registrar of Voters, and found, “a certain similarity,” between the voting records, though, according to the Haystack, “the two counties do not share voting records other than for registration purposes.” While this is not proof of anything, Hardy called the article, “disturbing.”

Both candidates ran good campaigns, but in the end, Wilcox can be proud that one of its own teachers will be a city council member.