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Wanna Come Upstairs and See My Financial Disclosure? Lots of zeros meant lots of trouble for Mark Primack before last week's election.


Let the Election Fallout Begin!

As the first winter storm pounded Santa Cruz last week, and locals ruminated on the scary implications of a Republican-controlled Senate and Congress (go, go Homeland Security, Alaska drilling and Iraq invasion!), politicos were busily deconstructing the final days of the most intensely fought local battle this fall--the county supe race, which incumbent Mardi Wormhoudt won by a handy 540 votes--a result a sore Mark Primack claims has a "1 in 5 chance of being overturned once the absentee ballots are counted."

On the day of the election itself, hours before any precinct results were in, an outraged Paul Sanford called Nüz to accuse the Sentinel of having stuck it to Primack (who, ironically, was the Senile's pick for supe) by running a Nov. 5 headline that screeched "Developers' last-minute $25K backs Primack" --a headline, by the way, that Sanford calls "a blatant falsehood."

Weirdly enough, just three days earlier Nüz had encountered the tie-dye T-shirted Sanford, who was barefoot and pregnant with political intrigue as he distributed fliers that promoted Primack, opposed Measure P and were paid for by a mysterious sounding and hitherto unheard of group called the Committee for Better Local Government.

When asked at the time who was behind the group, Sanford admitted he was the committee's manager, but refused to divulge further info until election day itself, allegedly for fear that the running dogs of the press would put a negative twist on it.

Which of course was exactly what ended up happening, all of which proves that if you want to put a spin on a story, you'd better spoon feed--not starve--the media.

Anyway, the fallout from this late-breaking bit of election news has been phenomenal, and may even have cost Primack the election--which may explain Sanford's heated anti-Senile rant on the day of the election.

"What responsible newspaper would run such a sloppy headline on page one on election day?" stormed Sanford.

Specifically, Sanford's beef was that the headline juxtaposed "developers" (which round these parts is tantamount to saying Satan's Evil Elves) with "$25K."

'There's no way the Sentinel could verify that $25k was developers' money. At most you could say that $7,200 could be attributed to developers," said Sanford, admitting that he still doesn't know what Baywood Homes Corp. (which gave his committee $5,000) is or does. He also claims that he didn't know until election day that the Oregon-based McDougal Bros., which also donated $5,000, had sold property in the Santa Cruz Mountains to luxury home developers.

As for "$7,200" of developers' money, Sanford calculates thus: "$6,880 of the $25K was given to the No on P Committee, and contributions were split on a 60-to-40 ratio between Primack and P."

Indeed, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission, independent political action committees must pick at least two causes and spend at least 20 percent of their funds on their secondary cause.

But while Sanford castigates the Senile for not having called him before running the story, Nüz notes that the only contact number on his committee's reports belonged to treasurer Judith Osborn, making us wonder who's spinning who here?

And while Sanford alleges that the Senile's editorial staff were aware of his involvement in the committee after he placed six full-page ads in their paper on the three days before the election, editor Tom Honig insists there is a firewall between the editorial and the advertising departments.

"Judged a few days later, our story might have been a little different, but can you call yourself a newspaper if you willingly withhold anything you know?" Honig asks, adding that he remains "100 percent supportive of the reporters who filed that story. "

Meanwhile, Sanford, who incidentally is a law professor by trade, says he didn't file his contributions reports until the Sunday before the Tuesday election, because he didn't receive or spend the money until the last minute.

As for him having little or no knowledge of the identity of the donors who gave $5,000 apiece to his committee, Sanford says there is a handful of local individuals who assisted the committee in fundraising but wish to protect their privacy.

"I guess the donors found out about our effort to have a more responsible government and sent money," he said. "But none of them participated in how it was spent. I was responsible for that, which involved crafting a positive message. As for the activities of the committee , they were all legal, ethical and proper. We're 100 percent proud of the uniformly positive message we put out about Primack."

Meanwhile, a steaming post-election Primack vented about Sanford's committee, the Senile, and Mardi--all in one breath.

"Who needed this committee? My campaign surprised even ourselves by the money we raised. If this committee hadn't happened, we would have won the election. But the Sentinel's story threw the precincts. Any competent newspaper wouldn't have run a story like this on election day. Negative campaigning is Mardi's MO. But I don't expect it from a newspaper."

And Then It Starts To Get Weird

But when it comes to post-runoff runoff, the Sanford saga--juicy as it is--is only the beginning. There's also the strange tale of Michael Warren, administrative assistant to Republican Sen. Bruce McPherson, who managed to combine two things most people can't stand--negative campaigning and email spam--into one wacky campaign strategy.

Warren--who has what he calls "an advisory, not a formal relationship to Primack," having attended several volunteer meetings for the Primack campaign--admitted that he authored a letter which accused Wormhoudt of having "huge corporate stock holdings in major polluters, union-busters and Iraq warmongerers," and which was signed by a UCSC student, who then spammed campus with it.

Missing from the email is any mention that Warren wrote the copy, or that Wormhoudt has actually sold her Chevron and Duke Energy stocks, but retains her pharmaceutical stocks, all three of which she inherited when her father died the previous year. Whoops!

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the November 13-20, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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