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Two races heat up as Mark Primack files for District 3 supe and Bob Lee challenges Canlis for DA

By Sarah Phelan

MARDI, MIKE--AND MARK. That's how the slate for the District 3 Supervisor race reads after county law librarian Pat Pfremmer dropped out Dec. 6 and Santa Cruz City Councilmember Mark Primack picked up her baton.

Primack, whose Santa Cruz City Council term doesn't expire until 2004, says he can't wait four years to run for supe, because problems in the county are growing too rapidly.

"Development is your bedroom addition, my home. And those cars gridlocked on the freeway are our schoolteachers, nurses, relatives," said Primack, who characterizes the county's Planning Department as "a quagmire of restrictions," and Highway 1 as "the road to hell."

Accusing incumbent Mardi Wormhoudt of playing power politics while neglecting the needs of the community, Primack says he wants to help "the artists, the surfers, the musicians and all the people who make SC interesting, to be able to live here."

Though he's not expecting to get any political endorsements--"Mardi's spent her whole career gathering power to her chest," he claims--Primack doesn't expect the race to go beyond March (candidates need over 50 percent of March 5 votes to avoid November runoffs), "because people vote for who they want when they step into the polling booth."

A week earlier, Wormhoudt, dressed in gold jacket, black pants and trademark high heels, was endorsed by the Democratic Women's Club along with John Laird (running for termed-out Fred Keeley's Assembly seat), and Sheriff Mark Tracy and School Supe Diane Siri, both running unopposed for re-election to their current posts.

Addressing the mostly gray-haired DWC crowd, Wormhoudt then said, "I hope and tend to believe I'm still a pretty effective voice for what most people in Third District care and worry about--strong environmental protection, social justice and the erosion of our civil liberties. If I no longer articulate these concerns, I guess I won't be supe."

Noting that "little developable land is left" and that "we can't pave our way out of the transportation problem," Wormhoudt observed that "people get pissed off if they have to spend more than 30 minutes sitting in their car on the freeway, but they have made a lifestyle choice."

Wormhoudt won the DWC endorsement by 77 votes to Pfremmer's 47--a result that Wormhoudt claimed was due to Pfremmer getting her supporters to join the club two months earlier, just so they could vote. A week later, Pfremmer, citing stress-related health reasons, dropped out.

How does Wormhoudt respond to charges of power politics?

"With a giggle, actually," says Wormhoudt, with a throaty laugh. "If I'm in it for the power, then I'm in the wrong business. What you get here is long hours, a million meetings and the opportunity to read copious agendas."

Noting that she's a little concerned about the personal nature of the attacks, Wormhoudt says, "Mark's an architect and works with developers, and it's not at all unusual to hear them complain about overregulation, while neighbors complain about underregulation."

Meanwhile, the third candidate in the race, former Bank of America manager Mike Schmidt, who was last seen wearing a yellow smiley-faced tie, thinks Primack's bid for supeship will make the race more fun.

"Soon he'll be getting his 'Primack for Governor' signs," joked Schmidt, who claims to have knocked on 5,100 out of a projected 10,000 doors to talk about transportation, affordable housing and the water supply. Describing himself as "a mature, grassroots kinda guy," a veteran and a world traveler, Schmidt says Primack's experience is narrow, while Wormhoudt's proven political track record may work for or against her.

All three will be debating the issues come 2002. "Elections can be a good time for a community to reaffirm its values, or assert that it's got new ones," Wormhoudt says.

The Dancing DAs

Another race heated up last week when Assistant District Attorney Bob Lee announced he's running against his boss and current incumbent Kate Canlis.

"I am the next DA," said Lee, as he announced his candidacy on the steps of the courthouse. Citing an unacceptably low conviction rate for jury trials in the last six months, a tendency to plea-bargain cases to avoid trial, and a lack of training under Canlis' command, Lee said that as DA he'd "provide the training that will make it possible for victims to be treated fairly."

Meanwhile, Canlis, who came to power in a 1999 interim election after former DA Art Danner became a judge, said she was pretty comfortable with her first year.

"It was so quiet, which is a sign of satisfaction," said Canlis, adding that she's diligent about training, and is most proud of having created a unit dedicated to domestic violence.

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From the December 12-19, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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