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[whitespace] If Eye Had a Hammer ...

All the trouble brewing in the 15th Congressional District has Eye inspecting Tom Campbell for an expiration date. The congressman's yes votes on two articles of impeachment have inspired cries for recall, angry letters and general discontent (see www.scc-democrats.org for all your "Impeach Tom" needs). During the weeks prior to the Dec. 19 House impeachment vote, Campbell's local and Washington offices were flooded with calls and emails (even crashed the server) from constituents wishing to weigh in on the issue. Chief of staff Casey Beyer told the Washington Post the numbers shook out 55 to 45 percent against impeachment--a slim majority, but a majority nonetheless. ... Now, Campbell staffers say the tenor of the phone calls shifted after their boss's vote, from shrill opinions to fawning congratulations. But not, Eye notes, from everyone. On the day of the vote, constituent Patricia Lauderdale fired off a withering fax in Campbell's direction in which she announced that she intended "to work diligently to support whomever the Democratic Party nominates to run against you." Well, Patricia, Eye may have a candidate for you. What has appeared on Eye's radar is an image of former Mayor Susan Hammer, her jaunty cap set for D.C. That's right, Eye has confirmed rumors that the ex-mayor's name is being tossed about in discussions about who could tumble Campbell in the next election. Democratic National Committee member and eBay bigshot Steve Westly soft-pedals: "The Democratic Party is clear that Campbell is a little more vulnerable than in the past. ... I'm sure there are a lot of the party leaders, myself included, who would be delighted if she gave it some serious thought." By no means is a Hammer congressional candidacy a done deal, however. Hammer might be looking to take a break from elective office; she recently announced during a gathering at the Hyatt that Gov. Gray Davis had offered her a "part-time" job. Also, our sources on the Peninsula say she's been lobbying hard to replace Colburn Wilbur as full-time executive director of the Packard Foundation.

A dent may indeed be in the Camster's future--from San Jose's own newly retired mayor, Susan Hammer. ...

Jury's In

Question: what do former civil grand jurors do with their spare time once they've been thrown off the jury? Answer: keep on investigating, apparently. Earlier this month, sources tell us, some of the grand jury dissidents did some dirt-digging on their old nemesis, Bill Larsen, who joined the Santa Clara DA's office after losing a 1982 race for San Mateo County DA. (Larsen, you may remember, went on a table-pounding, finger-pointing tirade against the dissidents during a grand jury session, threatening to have them jailed for making complaints to Judge LaDoris Cordell.) According to articles in the San Mateo County Times, which dissident jurors have been passing out all over town, Larsen was criticized by San Mateo police for interceding on behalf of Joe Montalbano, whom police had arrested for shooting someone during a barroom brawl. Joe was the son of August Montalbano, a local restaurant owner and one of Larsen's campaign fundraisers. A group of 11 San Mateo Superior and Municipal Court judges issued a statement against Larsen days before that 1982 election, charging the DA with "personal and inappropriate intrusion" in the Montalbano criminal case, which was eventually turned over to the California attorney general's office because of Larsen's conflict of interest. ... If all that sounds a little familiar, it was Larsen who was accused by past and present Santa Clara County grand jurors of helping San Jose Municipal Golf Course operator Mike Rawitser and Berryessa school superintendent Herbert Wadley evade the jury's scrutiny. Larsen didn't return calls, and DA George Kennedy is out of town at the state DAs' convention. But Kennedy earlier denied any Larsen wrongdoing in both cases in language too colorful to repeat here. Similar sentiments were shared by Larsen's previous boss, San Mateo DA Keith Sorenson, who defended Larsen in 1982, telling the San Mateo Times, "I have no problems with [the Montalbano case]. It looks to me that the matter has been blown out of proportion." ... Out of proportion or not, Larsen's history was reportedly one of the subjects discussed by Kennedy and San Jose NAACP reps last week. NAACP officials will only confirm that a meeting was held with Kennedy "to discuss a number of justice system concerns." But insiders say Kennedy may be looking for a way to show Larsen the door in the wake of the civil grand jury debacle.

Heading West

Two months after losing his bid for a seat on the San Jose City Council by a paltry 284 votes, Tony West has picked himself up, dusted himself off and landed a job with "special" in the title. West says he's leaving the local U.S. attorney's office to go to Sacramento to be one of four "special assistants" to California's top cop, Bill Lockyer. A bit of a change of pace for West: His former boss, Janet Reno, was 3,000 miles away; in his new job, he will report directly to the Lockster. The special assistants work on the attorney general's top priorities. West was tapped to head up high-tech crime--the first time such crimes have been deemed important enough to demand the attention of an exalted special assistant. Lockyer has promised more activism from the AG office, and he has already requested an extra $25 million over Pete Wilson's budget to prosecute civil rights and environmental cases. ... West plans to keep his primary residence in San Jose, and though he has a good working relationship with Highway 680, he plans to rent a crash-pad in Sacto for a few nights a week. As for his future political plans, West claims his special new appointment might not keep him from running for Blanca Alvarado's supe seat. "I wouldn't rule that out at all," he says. "San Jose is always going to be my home. I will always be committed to what's going on there."

Demo Derby

Peninsula Assemblyman Ted Lempert is facing the fact that he's termed out in the year 2000, and he's weighing a run against state Sen. Byron Sher, who is up for re-election next year. Supposedly, Lempert is asking people to hold off on endorsing the Stanford-area tree-hugging incumbent until Lempert makes up his mind. Meanwhile, the venerable Lord Byron is pounding his chest, letting out a yell through Sacramento's political jungle in hopes of scaring off opposition in the 2000 Democratic primary. Sher released three pages of endorsements, including those of the new lieutenant governor and attorney general, eight supervisors and seven mayors. When Lempert heard the commotion, he did some Tarzan-yelling of his own, phoning potential endorsers to tell them Sher may not be unopposed. Though many Demos would like to avoid a messy primary, Lempert seems reluctant to let himself get muscled out. "Maybe the best solution is to let voters decide," he says.

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From the January 28-February 3, 1999 issue of Metro.

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