Senator Dave Cortese was elected in November of 2020 to represent State Senate District 15 which encompasses much of Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. Along with his accomplished career as an attorney and business owner, the Senator previously served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for over a decade, with four years as Board President, on the San Jose City Council for eight years, including two years as Vice Mayor, and as a trustee for the East Side Union High School District for eight years.
He grew up in San Jose as part of a family that has been active in civic, cultural, and business activities for generations. Dave graduated from Bellarmine College Preparatory then University of California, Davis where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science. He earned his Juris Doctorate at Lincoln University Law School in San Jose. He has four children and is married to his wife Pattie Cortese who is currently a Trustee on the Eastside Union High School Board.
During his nearly three decades in public service, Dave has brought the community together to address and reduce homelessness, combat climate change, expand public transit options, reform the Santa Clara County’s jail custody operations, and fight for the rights of immigrants.
- To increase affordable housing and find solutions to homelessness, Dave initiated the creation of a countywide housing task force with representatives from business, labor, city and county offices, the local homeless population, and many experts on housing and homelessness. That group’s recommendations led to such initiatives as the groundbreaking $950 million “Measure A” affordable housing bond that Dave co-chaired as well as the All the Way Home campaign that has housed 1,940 of the County’s veterans.
- As a member and former Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Dave fought hard to bring federal stimulus funds to the South Bay to rehabilitate our aging roads and ease congestion. On the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), he pushed to secure funding for the BART expansion into San Jose and for VTA’s eventual light rail service to Eastridge. Dave secured improvements to expressways, Highway 101, Highway 85, and the Tully Road/Capitol Expressway/Yerba Buena interchanges. He spearheaded officially merging the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and MTC’s efforts to advance smarter land-use policies for the entire Bay Area and to tackle the important connection between housing, jobs, transportation and climate protection in a coordinated, regional fashion.
- Dave has long been a champion of protecting our environment, leading Santa Clara County to transition to 100% renewable electric power, creating the County Climate Coalition in partnership with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and helping to form Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the community-owned provider of carbon-free electricity for Silicon Valley
- Dave has prioritized women’s policy issues. He initiated the County’s Gender and Ethnicity Pay Equity Ordinance, their landmark Anti-Human Trafficking Team, and their first-of-its kind review of Title IX policies for K-12 and higher education institutions.
- Dave pushed Santa Clara County to become the first in the nation to file a lawsuit in federal court against the Trump Administration to overturn its unlawful rescission of the DACA Program. This attempt was successful, with the Supreme Court eventually overturning the Trump Administration’s repeal of DACA. Dave again pushed the County to sue the Trump Administration for denying federal funding to “sanctuary” cities and counties that didn’t participate in the President’s aggressive immigration enforcement agenda. He helped lead the establishment of the Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations, the New American Fellowship program that employs DACA youth, and the allocation of millions in funding for legal services for DACA/DAPA recipients.
- Dave provided oversight and direction for the County in areas of Finance, Budget, Technology and Capital Projects. He created the County’s Open Government Ordinance and Office of Labor Standard’s Enforcement to monitor the County’s Wage Theft and Living Wage Ordinances, that he championed, as well as workplace sexual harassment.
- Dave has initiated several local community-based gun buy-back and firearm relinquishment programs including “Unity Day” that became the County’s largest gun buy-back event. After hosting the Community Summit on Firearms Safety with over 300 diverse participants, Dave spearheaded the County’s safe-storage ordinance to prevent accidental shootings and suicides in homes.
- With a strong track record rooted in restorative justice and fighting systematic inequities, Cortese has taken major steps to re-envision our justice system, including establishing the Santa Clara County Blue Ribbon Commission, which led to hundreds of recommendations to improve the treatment of inmates in custody, and creating the first policy in the United States to halt the incarceration of offenders under 13 years of age at Juvenile Hall.
- As a School Board Trustee, Dave jump-started dormant plans to build a new high school in Evergreen and co-chaired the $80 million bond campaign that led to Silicon Valley’s first new high school in 25 years. He was a major architect of School Linked Services, a program that connects students and families to County social services and counseling. School Linked Services has grown to serve about 200 schools in the County.
Dave has had the opportunity to work with his father, former Assemblyman Dominic L. Cortese over a political career that commenced in 1968. His deep, local roots and love for his community continue to fuel his passion for public service.
As a California State Senator, Dave intends to continue and expand on the successful work he has done in Santa Clara County and apply as many solutions as possible statewide. That includes addressing climate change through building decarbonization, increasing California’s housing stock, shifting the focus of our justice system from incarceration to rehabilitation, and fighting sexual assault and gender-based violence.