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[whitespace] Ron Gonzales Bedtime For Gonzo: Ron Gonzales must have slept well Election Night.


Public Eye

Let It Reign

Outside, the sprinkles fell gently from the sky, but inside the political powerhouses of the valley, there were some floods going on. Early returns came as one big advantage of this low voter turnout primary election with some decisive up-front results and only a few cliffhangers. Out at the Labor Temple, where the Union-Yes! crowd munched on beer and pretzels (no one choked on them), Democratic dignitaries like ZOE LOFGREN, JOHN VASCONCELLOS and RON GONZALES all came by to offer their blessings. Labor's leading lady, AMY DEAN, was ecstatic over early results. "This was a very understated election where people stepped over themselves to get the most conservative right-wing candidate for governor elected." Biggest labor cheers went to SALLY LIEBER and labor pick TERRY GREGORY who brings the number of labor buds on the San Jose Council to seven. "And the amazing thing is," Dean gushed, "every person we've gotten elected wouldn't have won any other way."... Over at the county building, meanwhile, election watchers were treated to a change from the old chalkboards, with a new system rigged by county propellerheads that projected results from four different webpages on the wall. "I miss the old system," one veteran reminisced. Perennial candidate ANDY DIAZ, who ran for City Council District 7 this go-around, showed up with high hopes he'd make it out of the single digits. He didn't, but that didn't discourage the ABE LINCOLN wannabe from thinking big. Diaz says he's lost track of how many times he's run for office (it's around 87 or 88 now), but next time he's thinking about going for GOP nomination for state Assembly or Senate. The RON GONZALES party was over at the SJ Police Officers Association hall--an interesting change from four years ago, when the cops union backed Gonzo rival PAT DANDO. As party-goers grazed on an impressive party food pyramid of potstickers, taquitos, teriyaki kabobs, eggrolls, veggies and free-flowing beer behind the bar--the results on the giant big screen looked good for Ron. It was a big hug night for the mayor, who seemed to be throwing his arms around everyone in sight when he wasn't squinting in front of the TV lights. With some wags predicting that Gonzales could miss a clear win and face the embarrassment of a runoff with one of his no-name challengers, the numbers--hovering at around 56 percent--were a relief to the Gonzales team. Nonetheless, Mayor Gonzales remained cautious. But, after all the doubts, was this a vindication? Gonzo frowned: "You're going to have all those folks saying that, but what we're interested in doing tonight is winning and it looks like we're going to be able to do that." Gonzales also revealed to Eye what the city can expect from his second term: "More of the same."

Throwing a Rod

It looks like a last minute hit piece from a trial lawyers group may have screwed the pooch in the close contest for the 22nd Assembly District. At least that was the sentiment at ROD DIRIDON JR.'s wake at D.P Fong's Wine Galleria, where supporters were steaming over what they say were false charges that Diridon had burned through $45,000 from Philip Morris and $70,000 from energy companies. "We didn't take a dime from Philip Morris and we sent back every check we got from energy," bristled JEFF JANSSEN, Diridon's campaign manager. "It's a blatant lie." . . . Unsurprisingly, the mood was brighter at SALLY LIEBER's campaign headquarters, where the candidate dodged questions about the anti-Diridon mailer. "We've been so focused on the campaign we haven't had time to monitor the trial lawyers," she claimed. It also looks like Lieber wasn't monitoring her campaign workers, who plastered campaign signs illegally close to polling places and on private property throughout the district the night before the election--a tactic that Diridon's father says his son specifically prohibited. "We heard through the grapevine it was going to get nasty, and it did," harumphed young Roddy. "The big lie wins," piled on state Senator JOHN VASCONCELLOS, who spent the last few days walking precincts for Diridon, despite his recent knee surgery. Meanwhile, third candidate ROSEMARY STASEK, who won the endorsements of the region's dailies (and this weekly) but ran a distant third in the race, says she is heading down to spring training in Phoenix, Ariz., to watch baseball and think about the future. "There are three things on Rosie's list," she says. "Get a job, get a lover, get a life."

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Through luck of the draw Eye got to each District 7 candidate's party at a point when each was ahead in the returns, allowing us to spread love before reality intervened and introduced finality to the temporary illusion of triumph. Mellow campaign supporters--like supporters and family members at BOB DHILLON's Hampton Inn party--quietly smiled upon hearing of Dhillon's early lead, before 9pm, when only absentees were in. "Hopefully we will win," campaign organizer DAR BIRING wishfully apprised audience members, who neatly lined up along the walls of the Inn's first floor common area with 12 empty folding chairs placed strategically in the middle of the room. The partay mood went up a notch when Eye got to ED VOSS' jolly Roundtable Pizza bash on picturesque Capitol Expressway. "Bob Dhillon was ahead on the absentee ballots, but now Ed has the lead," enthused Voss supporter and former Mountain View Mayor LAURIE BARKE. "I'm excited," said a rosy-cheeked Voss. This party, which saw a happy mix of cops, firefighters and 70-year-old nuns from Santee's Guadalupana Mission, was the loudest, most pizza-eating and beer-drinkingest of the district's parties. Outgoing Councilmember GEORGE SHIRAKAWA JR. stood by and touted Voss' background as a "grass-roots leader." By the time Eye found TERRY GREGORY's shindig, which was tucked away in an elusive Tully Road office park, the returns favored him. "We're on fire, baby," yelped gleeful Gregory campaign manager KINSHASA CURL. That was around 10:45pm. Incidentally, Eye debriefed Gregory early in the night, pre-returns, and he predicted he'd win outright. But by 11:30pm, eager Voss tied cool Gregory with 32.4 percent of the vote. The final count--Gregory with 34 percent, Voss with 31 percent and Dhillon with 21 percent, validated Gregory's near-psychic abilities.... San Jose District 9 candidate JUDY CHIRCO was bouncing off the walls when Eye stopped by early in the evening, cheerful and not the least bit nervous. Chirco's kitchen table at her Cambrian home was covered with a generous spread, and the candidate did her best to make sure the Merc photographer who dropped in didn't leave hungry. As the night went on, Chirco came out on top by a healthy margin: final tally was 58 percent to 42 percent. Eye talked with a disappointed CHRIS HEMINGWAY on his cell phone after he'd lost the race to Chirco. "I had a lot of fun," Hemingway said, sucking it up. Even though Hemingway's big backers and fatter bank account gave him the advantage, Chirco's grassroots approach trumped all that. Hemingway was partying campaign headquarters next to Costco down on Almaden Expressway. "There were a lot of kids running around," he reported. Hemingway said he had "an amiable conversation" with Chirco and that the two plan to have lunch. Who knows, maybe Chris can keep his job as the District 9 council aide.

Roger Lee
Roger Lee

Difficult Defection

Bad-boy political consultant ROGER LEE, who brought San Jose politics into the dirty big leagues, continues to misbehave, but South Bay political insiders aren't really surprised about his latest move. The man who helped get mayors JANET GRAY HAYES, TOM McENERY and SUSAN HAMMER elected and played a role in all kinds of contests before (and after) he was busted for selling crack cocaine to undercover cops a few years ago has been working in Washington, D.C., since 1998. Until a couple weeks ago, Lee had been a partner in Strategy Source, a direct mail firm, with HENRIETTA EPSTEIN. The two became friends while working on the Hayes campaign in 1978 and had been business partners since 1995--until a few days ago when, the story goes, Lee abruptly cleaned out the office in the middle of the night and left to form a rival firm. Epstein says Lee also took two top employees and two of their biggest clients. The cherry on top, she adds, is that the defectors emailed the news about their new business to all Strategy Source clients. "This was just absolutely horrible," fumes Epstein, who hints of legal action to come. ... Lee says he doesn't see what all the fuss is about, and that his move shouldn't have been a surprise since Epstein asked him to resign a year ago (Lee declined the invitation). The new political consulting firm, Beser, Lee, Owens & Siegel Group, formed Feb. 6. Lee says he left because he didn't like the way the old firm was run and that his clients "called us and asked us to work for them." But local political consultants who know Roger don't buy it. "He's screwed everyone he's ever been in business with," confides RICH ROBINSON, who says he had a falling out with Lee in 1995 under similar circumstances. "But for him to do this is just unconscionable. Henrietta stood by him when no one else would. She was like a mother to him." GREG SELLARS, another grumpy ex-partner, says, "It's all part of a pathetic pattern."

Suggestion Box

Assemblyman JOE SIMITIAN is out to change the sweet taste of antifreeze. The Palo Alto legislator has wrapped up his There Oughta Be a Law contest, in which he urged constituents to submit their own ideas for bills. Simitian has already introduced AB2474, which will require antifreeze makers to add a bittering agent--denatonium benzoate, actually--so kids and pets aren't so quick to drink the automotive product. The suggestion came from LAUREN WARD of Cupertino, who lost a dog to antifreeze ingestion. Simitian also picked two other winners. AB2472 will require state agencies to use the least toxic alternatives to pesticides and herbicides on highways and other state property. And AB2473 will require stores and restaurants to honor old gift certificates if they go bankrupt. Simitian tells Eye it's too soon to tell if any of the trio of bills will face serious opposition, though he thinks state bean counters may have issues with the herbicide idea if it costs anything extra. The quality of entries was high overall, Simitian says, but some good ideas weren't possible with the state facing a $16 billion budget shortfall. Winners will testify on the bills, take home a state flag that few over the Capitol and get a free lunch courtesy of Simitian.

SouthBound

Newlywed Cupertino planning commissioner GEOFF PATNOE, who recently lost his bid for a City Council seat, resigned his post this week so he and his wife CHRISTINE PATNOE can move to San Diego and afford a decent home. Patnoe, 29, worked on some campaigns in San Diego a few years ago, and he's giving up high-tech PR to take a job as executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. But Patnoe, an ambitious Republican who worked for Gov. PETE WILSON, will also be leaving behind the Democrat-dominated valley for greener GOP pastures--where it won't be a joke if he ever decides to seek partisan office. Will he? Patnoe says he's not sure.

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From the March 7-13, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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