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[whitespace] Tony West Great Black Hope: Assembly candidate Tony West is considered one of the top African American political prospects in the state. But Latino leaders want one of their own in the office West is seeking.

Public Eye

Race Cards

LATINO CAUCUS leaders in the state Legislature have long considered the 23rd Assembly District, which includes Hispanic-heavy East San Jose, a "Latino" seat by virtue of divine demographic right. After all, 30 percent of the district's voters have a Latino surname. But due to a variety of circumstances, the caucus was unable to elect a Latino to the seat during the '90s. That could change in the new millennium now that Asian-American incumbent Mike Honda is running for Congress, making possible the career advancement of East San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz. Pundits expect caucus leaders like state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) to kick down plenty of pesetas to Diaz's Assembly campaign in order to capture the seat. ... But Latino Democrats aren't the only minority officeholders taking a close look at the 23rd district throne. So are members of the dwindling six-member Legislative Black Caucus, who, sources say, see a rising star in Democratic state Assistant Attorney General Tony West. West, a downtown San Jose resident with a Harvard pedigree who barely lost a 1998 bid for City Council to Cindy Chavez, could very well be the Black Caucus' best hope to elect an African-American in Northern California to the state legislature now that former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris's political career is dead. "There are only a few viable black candidates statewide," observes an African-American South Bay operative, "and Tony West is one of them." West tells Eye that two top Black Caucus officials--state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles)--have promised him their support. ... But in order to compete with the formidable resources of the Latino Caucus, sources say, West will need to enlist the backing of heavier hitters in the Democratic Party than Murray and Wesson. So far, it seems as if West is doing a decent recruiting job. His campaign finance committee chair is Darius Anderson, the Sacramento lobbyist (with clients like Microsoft and Catellus) who headed Gov. Gray Davis' inaugural committee. He also has managed to woo Latino Caucus whip, state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), into his camp. And West says he expects to have the official endorsement of his boss, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, very soon.

Toxic Grudge

For the past year, mercurial Monte Sereno City Councilman Joel Gambord tried his best to make nice with Vice Mayor Suzanne Jackson, whom Gambord freely criticized during her 1998 re-election effort. He even went so far as to endorse her current Assembly candidacy and raise dough for her campaign. But Gambord didn't put on his best pucker out of any altruistic higher calling. He hoped to get Jackson's support to vote him in as mayor during the final year of his first term in office. But when the vote came up last month, Jackson and her two allies snubbed Gambord and his sidekick, Councilman Gordon Knight. The council majority instead appointed Jackson mayor, and Barbara Nesbet vice mayor, which incited the Joelmeister's wrath. "All the work and cooperation from the last year has been wiped out," Gambord grumbled afterward. "I though the animosities were over and it was all water under the bridge. I fully expected Gordon and I would be elected mayor and vice mayor." For her part, Jackson explained, "I felt [Gambord] didn't really have an agenda for the city. If individual council members feel it would be better if someone is not appointed mayor, they have every right [to vote against them]." The fallout: Both Gambord and Knight are now endorsing Jackson's Republican opponent in the March primary, Los Gatos Mayor Steve Blanton.

Get Well, Go to Hell

The rift between San Jose attorneys and Berryessa neighbors Dale Warner and Chuck Reed has produced some of the nastiest moments in South Bay politics. For instance, in 1994, when Warner ran for school board, Reed helped finance a hit piece revealing the candidate's past run-in with Michigan police over his alleged possession and use of heroin (the charges were ultimately thrown out of court). As clever readers might deduce, this wasn't exactly the fix Warner's campaign needed, and he lost. Now, Reed is running for San Jose City Council and Warner, San Jose's most vocal European American, apparently can't resist taking a pot shot at his old foe. After receiving a Reed campaign calendar in the mail, Warner quickly sent the council candidate a reply (with a copy also sent to Eye) suggesting the lanky lawyer might suffer from Marfan's syndrome, a disease that attacks the body's connective tissues. "I am troubled about one aspect of the calendar," Warner says in his Jan. 3 missive, "and that is that your photos make you look seriously ill. ... Your gaunt and sickly appearance, especially when contrasted with the round-cheeked healthiness of your wife and children in your campaign photos, concerns me deeply and legitimately injects the issue of your health into your campaign for public office." Warner goes on to ask Reed to make his medical records public. But Reed isn't taking the bait. The 51-year-old vet assures Eye that he doesn't suffer from Marfan's syndrome and is in good health. In fact, Reed says, he weighs the same--158 pounds--as he did when he joined the Air Force in 1966. "It might be worth it," Reed says of Warner's disclosure request, "if I could get Dale to release his mental-health records."

Grade Curve

The San Jose chapter of the NAACP, the nation's venerable African American organization, released its local candidate report card with some surprising results for one black candidate. The organization gave San Jose City Council aspirant Forrest Williams, an African American, a "B" grade while it gave his two Latino opponents in District 2 (south San Jose), Maria Ferrer and Kathy Chavez Napoli, an "A-" and an "A" respectively. Williams' relatively poor grade caused some hand wringing inside the organization, which worried about criticizing San Jose's only black City Council candidate in the March election. But the civil rights group ultimately decided to release the report card. "The candidates were all graded fairly," sniffs group spokesman Rick Callender, "and they were all based on the candidate's commitment to civil rights." Williams perturbed the liberal NAACP grading committee because of his support for the "three strikes" sentencing law and his opposition to so-called "driving while black" legislation. In spite of his "B" grade, the 62-year-old Williams, an IBM engineer who grew up in Alabama, insists he's confident in his civil rights credentials. "I grew up in the South," Williams says. "I did the marching before these kids were even born."

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From the January 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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