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[whitespace] Manner of Speaking: Millionaire congressional candidate Bill Peacock has ruffled feathers of 'little ladies' in the Democratic Forum.

Public Eye

Gender Offender

ON PAPER, venture capitalist and congressional aspirant Bill Peacock would seem a natural candidate for the moderate, business-friendly Democratic Forum of Silicon Valley to endorse. Not only is Peacock a dues-paying member, but he's also supported individually by eBay VP Steve Westly and county tax assessor Larry Stone, both of whom sit on the Forum's executive board. But there has been resistance in the group to backing Peacock, most notably in the person of Doug Winslow, president of American Data Management. Winslow, one of the Forum's more liberal members, freely admits he doesn't like the millionaire military vet, whom he calls "Daddy Warbucks." The Forum's endorsement could translate into as much as $50,000 for a candidate, money Winslow thinks should go to someone with less-deep pockets than Peacock, who has already loaned $500,000 of his own money to his campaign. At last week's Forum gathering, Winslow fired his latest--and most explosive--salvo at Peacock yet. ... During the proceedings, Winslow argued that the Forum should unite behind a viable candidate like Assemblyman Mike Honda (D-San Jose). As for Peacock, Winslow dismissed him as a lame candidate and a sexist. That comment, witnesses confirm, actually drew applause from women in attendance. ... Privately, some prominent local Democratic women have bristled at what they view as Peacock's Southern paternalism. One successful businessgal grouses about a discussion in which Peacock repeatedly called her "little lady." Mountain View City Councilwoman Sally Lieber, a Forum member and Honda backer, tells Eye, "I've heard about it [Peacock's perceived sexism] all along, ever since he's been on the scene. But it's gaining momentum right now." Peacock defenders argue that the sexist label is "gaining momentum" only because Hondistas are pushing it. Larry Stone says that the women who applauded Winslow's remark at the Forum meeting were Honda partisans. Meanwhile, Peacock campaign manager John Shallman sniffs that unfounded allegations of sexism "aren't worthy of comment." The Forum has scheduled a special meeting to consider endorsing Honda later this month.

Semantic Recall

Just a few months ago, Redwood City-based venture capitalist Tim Draper was whining about the ballot title given to his proposed education initiative by Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office: "Vouchers. Public funds for private and religious schools." Draper, whose firm has backed notable startups like Four11 and Hotmail, wrote a letter to the AG objecting to the use of the word "voucher." Draper preferred the more appealing noun, "scholarship." But Lockyer's office wouldn't budge, so Draper was forced to go back to the chalkboard and re-write his business plan. ... Now, after doing some polling and making some tweaks, Draper has resubmitted his initiative and is collecting signatures to put it on the ballot. The new proposal is similar to its predecessor--it still offers annual $4,000 payments to parents who want to send their kids to private school. It also adds a poll-tested provision requiring the state to raise per-student spending levels to the national average. And for all of Draper's efforts, the Democratic AG rewarded the Republican VC with this new ballot title: "School vouchers. State-funded private and religious education. Public school funding." Not much better than the first go-round, which might explain Draper's newfound acceptance of the offending term. "We would have liked [the attorney general] to use 'scholarship,'" Draper says, "but I don't know if I see a difference between 'vouchers' and 'scholarships.' It's just a word."

Private Defender

Judicial candidate Thomas Spielbauer doesn't get a lot of respect from local law enforcement. The deputy public defender sees the world through a defense lawyer's eyes, advocating for the decriminalization of drugs and the right to remain silent. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that his campaign opponent, Deputy District Attorney Paul Bernal, is resisting Spielbauer's demand that he identify the 49 superior court judges he claims support him on his ballot statement. Bernal says he promised those judges not to release their names because they didn't want them to be used "for political purposes by other judicial candidates or by [Spielbauer]." Bernal has offered a compromise of sorts: He will release a confidential list to an independent third party who can confirm the endorsements privately. That offer doesn't exactly thrill Spielbauer, who argues--with some justification--that if the judges want to keep their support private, Bernal shouldn't refer to them whatsoever in public documents. According to Spielbauer, during their endorsement interview with Mercury News chieftains last week, Bernal said he didn't want to release the names "because judges didn't want [Spielbauer] to harass them." Spielbauer retorts, "I didn't realize I had such power."

Missing Ink

Silicon Valley's new glossy magazine for high-tech professionals could use an old fashioned, low-tech proofreader. The cover of this month's CLiCK exclaims, "Premier Issue," using a word that normally appears before the name of foreign dignitaries. Eye suspects the spell-check software didn't suggest the alternative word, "premiere," which Webster's Dictionary defines as "to present publicly for the first time." ... Typos or no, San Jose Magazine publisher Gilbert Sangari says he's not worried about the new startup--replete with real estate ads for modest $2 million fixer-uppers in Woodside and Saratoga--hurting sales of his more established publication. "They may get their cans kicked, or they may kick our butts," he shrugs. "But I think we've got a very strong foundation."

Strange Fate

Eye was saddened to see that among the passengers on downed Alaska Airlines flight 261 were Toni Choate and her teenage daughter, Jackie Choate. Toni Choate, known to Metro readers from the Dec. 16, 1999, story "Dr. Strange Love," was returning from Puerto Vallarta after receiving an undisclosed settlement in her lawsuit against nationally known Los Gatos sexologist Mildred Brown. The suit alleged that the therapist had engaged in a long-term romantic and sexual relationship with Choate, who tried to take her own life when the relationship ended. Born and raised as Larry Choate in a small Central Valley town, Choate started seeing Brown in 1994 and a year later underwent sex-reassignment surgery. Choate was happy with her new gender and, after she left Brown, reconnected with her teenage daughter, Jackie. "She's 17 years old, a great kid and a great student," Choate told Metro earlier this year. "If this is what raising a teenager is like, bring 'em on." Choate's lawsuit caused some anger and resentment in the South Bay transgender community, where Brown holds heroic status. Nonetheless, Jennifer Woolcott, a strong supporter of Brown's, expressed her sadness at Choate's death. "It is a sad day for all of us," she says. "We wish her family and friends well."

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From the February 3-9, 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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