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June 7-13, 2006

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Sam Liccardo

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
Sam I Am: Liccardo posted great results in the race for District 3 City Council.

June 6 Election Coverage

We Scam Free Food Because We Care

The Fly went into extra innings this week to do its own brand of election-night precinct walking. Well, stalking, really—but hey, if these people win, that means they're elected officials, and better get used to being held strictly accountable to the public. Oh wait, we're in San Jose! ...Have you noticed that voting technology is an orange-alert-level threat these days? It was one thing when those freaks in Florida and Ohio couldn't keep pesky "irregularities" out of their voting, but one of the biggest stories across California this election day was bad ballot-box juju. Alameda County, for instance, couldn't get its act together after its Diebold voting machines were certified hazardous to democracy as long as they lacked a paper trail. Instead, county supes there goofed around with other options and then decided at the last minute to go back to paper ballots. Apparently, they were able to find people who still know how to count those, but add that to the fact that millions of absentee voters were holding on to their ballots until the 11th hour—the opposite of conventional wisdom about these supposedly Type A breed of voters—and you can see why local officials were predicting early on that this election count was going to be a long slog ... On the plus side, several local voters told Fly they were happy—nay, ecstatic—over Santa Clara County's new paper trail for electronic voting. You may remember the previous paperless system gave a lot of voters the heebie-jeebies, and while you still have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief when a computer assures you "Your ballot has been cast!", at least the paper receipt you're allowed to look at before you pull the trigger offers you some reassurance your voting rights won't have evaporated into cyberspace in the event of a recount. ... So maybe then we don't need those "observers" from the Justice Department looking over our shoulder, eh? Santa Clara County was one of three California counties to be monitored by the feds on Tuesday for compliance with the Voting Rights Act (there were 18 counties chosen in five states). You'd think if there was voter fraud going on, they'd hear about it from one of their illegal wiretaps.

Comeback Kid

Though it was relatively early in the night, Chuck Reed could barely suppress his surprise or pleasure (not glee—never glee with Chuck) at playing the favorite in San Jose's hotly contested mayoral primary. Returns had him outpacing pre-election favorite Cindy Chavez—the candidate he looked to be facing in a fall runoff. Reed didn't get to the party at his office-park campaign headquarters on the outskirts of Willow Glen until almost 9pm—he was interrupted in the midst of a dinner with his wife after the first returns showed him storming ahead. His campaign consultant, Vic Ajlouny, gleefully pointed out that Michael Mulcahy, the beneficiary of the plum Chamber of Commerce endorsement that the fiscally conservative Reed was aiming for, was lagging badly in the polls. Reed, meanwhile, held court among his supporters wearing his usual American flag tie. "It's very good so far," Bob Dhillon, a Sikh-American community activist and a member of the city's planning commission, said. "It's not surprising. Personally, he's very organized—what he has been saying for six years, he is saying now." "The political establishment hardly supported him," said another supporter. "This proves that you don't need the political establishment all the time." Read, meanwhile, candidly admitted that he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. "I have some things to prove," he said, "because there are people who didn't support me that I felt should have supported me. I definitely have that in mind." San Jose, take note—Chuck Reed is taking names.

Wait, He Lost?

Amid the chatter and cheer of the DiNapoli clan, Mulcahy's campaign manager Lisa Poelle turned white with worry. She had just finished telling Fly how confident they were despite a recent poll that ranked Mulcahy last among the five heavyweights vying for San Jose's mayoral seat. "It was a robo-poll," she said, rolling her eyes. An electronic probe couldn't really gauge what voters might do, right? Well, if that made her happy, then sure. No one at this election night bash seemed to be fretting. The gleaming foyer of the newly remodeled Garden Theater in Willow Glen was swarming with upper-middle-class revelers, indulging in the open bar and nibbling at elaborate platters of sushi and crisp vegetables. Then a serious-looking woman approached Poelle (a campaign cheerleader-turned-party-pooper) and whispered, "Did you hear?" At 8:15pm, just after the polls closed, initial results from absentee ballots came through. Reed was leading the pack with 37 percent of the votes. Mulcahy lingered in fifth place with 10 percent, the same number predicted by the robo-poll. Damn those machines. Poelle's smile dissolved and, forgetting about formalities for the moment, ditched Fly and marched to the backroom to make a phone call. Meanwhile, Fly got tossed among members of Mulcahy's extended family. Phil DiNapoli, Mulcahy's uncle and legendary landowner, said everyone had pitched in for the campaign, working the phones or stuffing envelopes. And what did he do? "I wrote a check!" he said. Of course, Mulcahy strolled in at 9pm, fashionably late as everyone anticipated. Not a single shiny brown hair out of place, he glided through the crowd, gracefully juggling handshakes and hugs. If Fly didn't know better, it would have thought he just landed one of the top two spots for the run-off.

Quote Machine

Blogger Tom McEnery and the remnants of his once-invincible machine held court over at the Brit on Santa Clara Street. The once future Ambassador to Ireland toasted Sicilian Sam Liccardo beneath the Queen's flag and took a shot at fellow Irishman Mulcahy. (OK, he's half Irish.) "The next time Chris Schumb and his buddies go into the wine cellar and come up with a candidate, tell him to find someone more qualified," he said. Spirits picked up at the pub when results came in around 11pm showing David Pandori overtaking Dave Cortese for third position in the mayor's race. McEnery said he walked precincts in Cambrian, Almaden, downtown and Evergreen and said he found "a visceral negative response to the direction of the city. ... The last time people were this upset there was a lynching in St. James Park," he said. Hey, can we get a mayor who gives quotes like that again? Meantime, strategist Jay Rosenthal checked results on a mobile device and speculated that opponents of the Liccardo juggernaut simply gave up. He noted that Manny Diaz hadn't sent mail in the week preceding the election and that Joel Wyrick had fired out only one piece of mail before falling silent. Down the street, at the Vault Ultra Lounge, Jim Shore celebrated his victory over Marc Buller, but the early returns showed 75 percent of the vote going to the two women in the District Attorney's race. We've come a long way, baby! Although Shore wasn't ready to concede the obvious at that point, he wouldn't tip his hand as to who he would endorse if he failed to qualify for the runoff. "I'm going to take some time off." To be courted for his endorsement? Shore replied with only a wink.

District 3 Food Fight

District 3 candidate Joel Wyrick held his party in a secret upstairs luxury suite at 39 South First Street, above the now defunct popcorn joint Hip Pop. Wyrick owns the building and he rents out the suite on a daily and weekly basis. So the price for the party apparently was right. He originally bought the building from Pauline—that gal who ran the old Two Virgins gift shop that used to occupy the address years ago. The joint boasts a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a full kitchen and living room, as well as a grand-scale view of all the transients at the light-rail station across the street. A private chef cranked out pasta, duck, beef, lamb and vegetables while a Tower of Power concert video emanated from the hi-def TV. Bottled Gordon Biersch beer flowed as folks gobbled up the food and discussed the issues of the day. Candidate Jose Posadas, who eventually dropped out and went on to endorse Wyrick, made an appearance. The number of snazzily dressed folks: priceless. Despite Liccardo being so far ahead that at one point he looked like he might even be able to avoid a run-off with Manny Diaz (Wyrick was a distant third as of presstime), it didn't change the fact that his food was nowhere near as good as the stuff at Wyrick's party. It was satisfactory enough for candidate Candy Russell, who didn't even bother to throw her own election party for herself. Instead, she infiltrated Liccardo's bash and immediately began rifling through all the free food, filling her plate with meatballs and pastries. She then stated she was on her way to Wyrick's get-together, obviously to do the same. There's just something to be said about one candidate showing up at the others' parties just for the food.

Hug Hug, Bang Bang

At 12 minutes after 8pm, current county supe and assessor-hopeful Pete McHugh was seen hugging a Buddhist priest wearing a bright orange robe. Ten minutes later, after he called in for the early election returns, McHugh would need more than a hug from a religious authority. He trailed incumbent Larry Stone by a huge margin, for a race that was captivating if only for the acrimonious back and forth between the two candidates, a bad loss could have the otherwise genial McHugh eating crow. "So that is not very impressive," said McHugh flatly after announcing the returns. The Buddhist priest, meanwhile, turned out to be the Most Venerable Thich Gac Luong of the Phap Duyen temple on Second Street. He had come to the City Restaurant, a cozy Vietnamese joint directly across Santa Clara Street from the upscale Saigon 75 restaurant, because, he said, he was good friends with McHugh—who, according to the priest, is unfortunately not a Buddhist. McHugh, however, was in no mood to deconstruct the race. "So I'm going to contemplate shooting myself, and then I'll have something to eat," he muttered as he squeezed through his supporters.

We'll Need More Balloons

If the excitement of an election night party could magically boost a candidate's chance of winning, then David Pandori ... didn't stand a chance. OK, to be fair, Fly did swing by his modest office complex (only blocks away from Mulcahy's swanky shindig in Willow Glen) earlier in the evening, before the mayoral aspirant had even shown up. But really, things were so dull that a campaign volunteer offered to buy more balloons to fill up the almost-empty room. A Merc photographer was so desperate for some action that she focused her lens on two kids scribbling comments on a whiteboard. "Vote Pandori (or else)," wrote 12-year-old Jim. With the good intentions of a few loyal supporters sporting campaign T-shirts, I guess you could say this party had potential. They contributed home-cooked tamales and fresh mozzarella cheese balls to the potluck-style spread. One volunteer even brought fresh brownies oozing with mint filling to match Pandori's green motif. And thumbs up to the candidate's eco-friendly décor: the waste bins were labeled to separate trash from recycling.

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