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Al Pal: San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales secretly agreed to endorse Al Gore (above) at the recent state Democratic Convention. But details of Gore's visit to San Jose this past weekend weren't worked out until the last minute.

Public Eye

Klatsch of Titans

OF ALL THE PLACES in the "capital of Silicon Valley" they could hold a press event, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Vice President Al Gore chose to declare their mutual admiration this past Saturday at--the Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co.? Believe it or not, plenty of negotiating went on between Gonzo and Gore's handlers the night before until they settled on the local latte joint. At first, Gore's schedulers wanted the mayor to fly to Los Angeles this week and appear at an event promoting the VP's Latino support in the state. But Gonzales reminded White House reps that Tennessee Al promised the mayor during the recent state Democratic Convention that Gore would come to San Jose for the mayor's big announcement. Jude Barry, the mayor's propagandist-in-chief, suggested Gore come to the First United Methodist Church, where Gonzales was due for a morning community meeting. Nervous White House advance people nixed the idea, fearing a potential conflict because of the church's nonprofit status (even if no Buddhist monks were going to be present). After a little caffeine-assisted brainstorming they agreed on the more pleasant confines of the Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co., which just happens to be one of Barry's favorite neighborhood haunts. Mayoral mouthpiece David Vossbrink acknowledges that convenience did play a role in selecting the site since Gore didn't commit to coming to San Jose until Friday at 6pm. "Given it was a Friday night and Gore would be in town Saturday morning," Vossbrink explains, "we needed a place that would be available on short notice and provide an appropriate neighborhood backdrop." ... Amid all the java-induced jubilation on Saturday, everyone seemed to forget that Gonzo was abandoning Bill Bradley in favor of the Demos' star player. Eye-watchers no doubt recall that Bradley co-hosted a fundraiser for Gonzales in Palo Alto during the 1998 mayoral campaign. But with Gore blowing out Bradley in the polls, Ronnie-come-lately opted to dispense with impractical fan loyalty. An apologist for the mayor points out that he did at least spare Bradley the political embarrassment of announcing his defection at the Democratic Convention last month when Gonzales and Gore privately shook on the endorsement.

Gored and Bloodied

The mayor's staffers weren't the only ones scrambling to nail down the details of Gore's surprise San Jose visit. Jennifer Van der Heide, campaign manager for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Honda, was on the phone with the Gore team throughout the night, negotiating Honda's presence at the national press event. But Van der Heide admits that she wasn't merely worried about whether Honda would be prominently featured--she feared that Honda's millionaire opponent, Bill Peacock, might try to get some camera time with Gore. "We wanted to be assured," says Van der Heide, "that nothing in that event could be used by the Peacock campaign. We didn't want anything that would insinuate that the vice president is supporting Peacock, because he's not. Gore asked Mike to run in December." Honda himself even paid Gore's lieutenants a call, voicing his concerns. Why the paranoia? Well, Gonzales is backing Peacock and Hondistas feared that the mayor might try to pull a fast one. The irony, sniffs mayoral staff chieftain Jude Barry, is that "we only invited Peacock to come after Honda insisted on showing up." ... The next day, both Honda and Peacock tried to get some free TV time. Honda managed to get a sound bite on KNTV, while Peacock got on CNN. Sort of. He was shown in the background standing behind Gore. ... After the speech, a Peacock campaign operative snapped a few opportunistic photos of the vice prez greeting Peacock. Van der Heide, witnesses say, had a conniption and demanded that the Peacock campaign not use any of the photos in their literature. Snarls one proud Peacock promoter, "That's absolute nonsense. This is politics. This was a public event. Of course you can use the photos."

Wild West

Poring through recent campaign reports, Eye noticed that San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has taken a keen personal interest in the 23rd Assembly District race in San Jose. Reports show that Willie has personally donated $10,000 to African American candidate Tony West, an assistant to Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Other Brownistas sources from the north--including the Residential Builders Association of San Francisco--have donated at least another $35,000. Why such interest from the hip SF mayor in boring ol' SJ? As Eye reported in December, black political leaders from around the state are upset that there are no Northern Californian African Americans in the Legislature. So far members of the Black Legislative Caucus and African American PACs have donated at least $51,500 to West. ... A brief footnote: West also has a more subtle family connection to Brown that doesn't hurt his standing with San Francisco's political boss. West's sister-in-law happens to be none other than SF socialite Kamala Harris, Brown's old flame. Harris, now a prosecutor working for District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, gained notoriety in 1995 when she handed Willie Brown a hat on election night with the inscription "Da Mayor."

Fore Play

Judicial elections are usually staid, stuffy affairs. But that shouldn't be the case after some judges get a chance to see a commercial produced by Commissioner Margaret Johnson that starts running on cable channels this week. The TV spot starts with Johnson out on the links with a voiceover saying, "Some people think being a judge means more time to play golf." The next shot shows Johnson grimacing as she watches her golf ball slice off into a water hazard. After mentioning her credentials, the ad concludes, "She's a lousy golfer, but she'll make a great judge!" This no doubt will annoy several jurists who got stung a couple of years ago by news stories showing them skipping work on Fridays to play golf. At press time, court-dwellers interviewed hadn't seen the spot, but they agreed it was going to cause plenty of judges to get their robes in a rumple. "She won't have much camaraderie around here if she gets elected," chuckles one prosecutor. "This is going to open a lot of old wounds." One judge, who is neutral in the contest for Seat No. 11, found the ad's premise amusing but warns, "An ad like that puts the whole bench in a negative light." Johnson tells Eye she hasn't heard any feedback from her colleagues yet, but she hopes no one takes offense. "It's meant to be funny," she explains, "and to get people's attention."

Webside Story

Gossip-lovers jonesin' for the latest campaign dish should check out www.metroactive.com and click on the "Eye election update" link. Eye will be providing regular updates on breaking campaign fodder between now and the March 7 election. A lot can happen in the blink of an Eye. Stay tuned.

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From the March 2-8, 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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