Incumbent makes appearance just days before reelection
THE SANTA CLARA
November 10, 2016
Shortly before the highly contentious local police chief election, incumbent Police Chief Mike Sellers visited campus to plead his case for reelection. Sellers won Tuesday’s election with just over 52 percent of the vote, earning approximately 1,000 more votes than his opponent Sgt. Pat Nikolai.
On the evening of Nov. 3, he spoke in Graham Residence Hall as a part of “Chat with the Chief”— a series of speaking engagements around the Santa Clara area. Sellers was locked in a tight race to defend his seat against the Santa Clara Police Officer’s Association President Pat Nikolai, and speaking engagements such as this one helped the incumbent edge out his counterpart within the department.
The series began in September of 2013 and although 14 prior sessions have been held, this visit to the university marked Sellers’ first forum on campus. Because Santa Clara is the only city in California to elect its chief through popular vote, such appearances are quite important for Seller’s future at the top of city law enforcement.
The event was scheduled to take place from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., but was finished in just an hour and drew a light attendance. Although the topic of reelection may have been on the minds of student attendees, questions regarding pubic politics were limited as guests were asked to focus on police activity rather than possible bureaucratic outcomes.
“I think it was very limiting at the beginning because we couldn’t ask about anything political,” said junior Jack Herstam.
Although around 70 percent of the university’s undergraduate population is from California, a far smaller pool is registered to vote within Santa Clara County—let alone the city of Santa Clara. With such a large portion of the Santa Clara student population unable to make a tangible political impact on the local election, Sellers’ visit was interpreted by many as a keeping up of appearances. “I can’t vote in California because I (voted) in Arizona,” Herstam said. “The people that are going to vote for Pat Nikolai aren’t on this campus, so I (didn’t) really see a lot of value for him to be here either.”
Although the student population has little sway in regard to local elective power, they make up approximately 7 percent of the city’s population and often find themselves most proximate to the effects of a major police election, such as this one.
“Nikolai really (sold) a neighborhood point (of view),” said Associated Student Government Pro Tempore Justice Mike Panetta, “He said he (wanted) to increase the police force at Santa Clara University by 200 percent and make the university pay for those extra police, so it (wouldn’t have come) out of the local budget. (The funds) would be from Santa Clara.”
Following the election, Panetta would like to see the status quo maintained and said a Sellers reelection helps preserve the normally cooperative atmosphere between law enforcement and students. Although the race was competitive, the final tally seems to favor Santa Clara students and the university’s social scene.
“When it comes down to the neighborhood-police relationship, it’s just cooperating,” Panetta said. “The student voice isn’t being heard, but the actions are seen.”
Contact John Lambert at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.