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10.22.08

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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

'Yes on 8' mailer takes Danner campaign by surprise; Santa Cruz PD spokesman Zach Friend joins Team Obama in Philadelphia.

Behind the 8-Ball

When Marsha Keefer flipped through the mail on Oct. 16, she was surprised to find a "Cops Voter Guide" slate card addressed to her wife, Suzanne Dowling, emblazoned with the phrase "Yes on Proposition 8." "Cops know children raised by a married mother and father have the best chance for success," the card read. But it wasn't the conservative rhetoric that got Keefer, who's been married to Dowling since Aug. 2--it was the fact that the card also bore the name of county supervisor candidate Betty Danner, who's received the endorsement of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC), an LGBT civil rights group. "When this card came out it was kind of like a slap in the face," Keefer says. "After taking public positions saying she's supporting the gay community and then getting the endorsement of BAYMEC--it was just not the right thing to do." Recipients of the card had reason to be confused. Danner has repeatedly described herself as a "lifelong Democrat" and spoken of her support of same-sex marriage at debates and in the Mid-County Post.

When Nu_z contacted Danner on Friday morning, the candidate said she'd been on damage control since Thursday night. "I am outraged it says 'Yes on 8,'" she said. "I have dear, lifetime, lifelong friends in the gay and lesbian community. I've advocated over same-sex marriages all my life. I'm so angry that this happened." Danner says she's sending out "No on 8" mailers to try to clear up confusion and has added the "No on 8" logo to her website.

According to campaign consultant Rachel Huff, in the primary Danner's name ran on a card from the same nonpartisan mailer company alongside that of Democratic Assembly candidate Bill Monning. So when invited to be included on the law enforcement-themed slate card, they agreed, law enforcement being Danner's biggest campaign platform.

And sure enough, the front of the "Cops Voter Guide," produced by California Vote by Mail (which could not be reached for comment), depicts a police officer with his hands folded behind his back. In gold type it reads "COPS"--though nowhere is it clear that any law enforcement body supports, funded or approved the card.

Huff and Danner say they were never told who else would be listed. "I'm not a politician. I'm an amateur," says Danner. "As a candidate, you cannot possibly track all the things that they're doing. Even the best politicians can have something happen." Danner says she now understands that ideology does not unite the list on the cards; rather, "endorsements" go to the highest bidder.Danner opponent John Leopold says he's heard plenty of concern over the card. When his wife received one, he says he was "shocked." He adds, "It's the first question you ask if you want to be on a slate card--what else is going to be on the card."

Friend's in High Places

If the name Zach Friend rings a bell, it's probably because as the Santa Cruz Police Department spokesman he's the most common link between local cops and the community. But since the 29-year-old public relations expert took a job in Pennsylvania with the Obama campaign, his name is ringing liberty bells in one of the election's most important battleground states.

Friend saved up all the vacation and sick time he could muster, and three months ago, with the blessing of his bosses at the PD and a promise to help out via telephone, he shipped off to the Keystone State, where he now works as deputy communications director at Obama's Philadelphia campaign office.

"I've always been involved in public service, and a campaign is rooted in public service because it's a method that tries to find good people to govern," Friend says. "I'm very lucky that I'm not working two or three jobs like a lot of people out here are, and I can actually participate in the political process like this."

Friend says that coming from a paradisiacal location like Santa Cruz, where he has a steady job and a home near the beach, he was unprepared for the kind of financial devastation wreaked upon blue-collar states like Pennsylvania. Meeting steelworkers and autoworkers who've found themselves suddenly without a way to feed their families, he says, has been a humbling experience.

"The fact that in Santa Cruz we can even have an argument about whether a drum circle should be allowed at the farmers market shows just how lucky we are," he says. "Here people aren't talking about that, they're talking about how on earth they are going to get their jobs back."

Keeping a good poker face, Friend says he's looking forward to coming back to work after what he hopes will be a landslide Obama victory. But back at police headquarters, where Capt. Steve Clark has taken on the lion's share of Friend's duties, the brass is sweating over the prospect of losing the department's star mouthpiece to a position in an Obama administration once the election is over. "It's tough. Zach definitely kept a lot of plates spinning, I'm glad he's able to still help as much as he does," says Clark. "We're extremely proud of the work that he's doing, and if he does come back, we'll see huge residual benefit from his experience. And if not, well, we might have an in to the White House!"


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