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Reality Bites

Santa Cruz has more than its share of reality TV stars. The most famous, of course, is Lex van den Berghe, who rocked the third season of Survivor so hard he made Season 8's All-Star cast. There was also the bluegrass-pickin' Abbott family, who starred in an episode of Trading Spouses in 2004. Add to this proud lineage Taz, brawling orange tabby of Opal Cliffs, and the family of Terry and Lorna Campion. They star in an upcoming episode of Animal Planet's Housecat Housecalls, described as "Supernanny for cats."

As the comparison implies, Taz had issues. A horrific car accident had left him minus a hip, but even so, he was a 20-pound bruiser with loads of 'tude. And in the space of a few years, the feline population of the Campion household had grown from one to five, including three exotics descended from wild Asian tree leopards. Big Taz was bent.

"Now, Taz hates all these new cats," says Terry Campion. "He would growl and lunge at 'em and chase 'em around. And all the cats were getting stressed out. And when cats are stressed out they spray and pee and everyone wants to mark their territory."

That stinks. But fate came knocking in the form of an email to Campion's longtime associates at Santa Cruz Skateboards: a new TV show was looking for people in the board industry with cat problems. As owner of the Santa Cruz Boardroom, Campion qualified, and soon enough his phone was ringing. In no time the fetching feline behavioral expert Dr. Katrina Warren was on the scene, along with an army of crew members. They returned three times to film.

"Corralling cats for a TV show? Good luck," says Campion. "It's easy to say your lines, but to get a cat to do so anything for you is virtually impossible. It takes an amazing amount of patience."

We won't ruin the ending—you'll have to watch Saturday, July 3, at 10:30am or Sunday, July 4, at 8am—but here's a hint. Says Campion of his formerly tetchy tom: "Last night he was asleep on my lap."

Traci Hukill

Runoff Rundown

After the final tally came in on Friday, Republican Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee didn't manage to cross the 50 percent threshold needed to give him the District 15 Senate seat outright. There was a brief window last week, as workers sorted through the last 17,000 mail-in and provisional ballots, when it was statistically possible for him to clinch it, but by Friday, the final count gave him 49.49 percent to Former-District 27 Assemblymember John Laird's 41.73 percent. Blakeslee will face Laird, and long-shot candidates Jim Fitzgerald and Mark Hinkle, in an Aug. 15 runoff.

Independent Fitzgerald took 5.88 percent and Libertarian candidate Hinkle won 2.89 percent of the pie, and it's hard not to notice that if those votes had gone to Laird, he would have sailed into the seat with 50.5 percent.

The candidates carried the parts of the weirdly shaped district as expected—Laird prevailed in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, while Blakeslee took San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. The part of Santa Clara County in District 15—including bits of Los Gatos, Almaden, Saratoga and Monte Sereno—considered to be a bit of a swing district, ultimately swung slightly for Blakeslee. And while Laird picked up strong Santa Cruz support, the turnout was the lowest of all five counties—only 27.85 percent as opposed to 37.87 in San Luis Obispo.

"For the run-off election we'll finally have a level playing field ... without an election date devised by the Governor to confuse voters," wrote Laird in a statement released Friday afternoon. "We now have time to take our message to voters and engage in a serious debate about the issues facing California and the 15th Senate District." The key word there is "debate"—Laird said before June 22 that his opponent would not appear jointly with him, a luxury he said he would not allow Blakeslee in the lead up to the run-off.

Sacramento will be watching the race closely, as a win for Laird means the Democrats would be a single vote away from a supermajority in the state Senate.

Jessica Lussenhop

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