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Arms and the Man: The Demos' main squeeze for the District 15 Congressional seat, Mike Honda, struggles uselessly within the anaconda-like grip of a fan.

Public Eye

A Manny Splendored Thing

For most Santa Clara County Democrats, election night begins with a visit to the Labor Temple, where candidates pay their respects to union bosses. People certainly don't come for the hors d'oeuvres, which this year included such workingman's finger-foods as rolled slices of salami filled with spicy nacho cheese. Genuflection is required, of course, because of the cash and foot soldiers labor provides. And Tuesday's election showed its clout: Union-blessed candidates--particularly the ones labor identified as top priorities--went home Tuesday night either victorious or one step away from it. Congressional candidate Mike Honda, for instance, easily plucked off millionaire Bill Peacock, who spent more than $1 million of his own money, only to lose by 25 points. City Council wannabe Ken Yeager and supervisorial aspirant Dolly Sandoval cruised into their respective November runoffs. But labor's most impressive feat of the season had to be rescuing its chosen Manny of the Year, Manny Diaz. By the final week of the campaign--battered by his better-financed opponent Tony West as a deadbeat dad and card-club crony--Diaz effectively moved his campaign headquarters from a Willow Glen storefront to the Labor Temple. On election day, Temple phone-bankers--enticed by free movie passes--nagged Diaz-supporters (read: Demos with Spanish surnames) to get their tails down to the polls to vote. Before the results came in, one labor apparatchik couldn't help but grumble about Diaz's campaign consultant, Larry Tramutola, and the campaign's lame mailers. (The most curious piece groused that West had spent his time and money telling voters about Diaz's record of inaction "somewhat untruthfully.") Labor leaders were far from confident. South Bay Labor Council boss Amy Dean, the evening's emcee, prefaced her comments on the 23rd Assembly District contest with the phrase, "Whatever happens in this race. ..." Diaz and his entourage finished the evening over at the GI Forum, where Diaz did a jig to mariachi music and chomped on chips and salsa. By midnight, Diaz pulled ahead by 1,500 votes and was cruising to a three-point victory. An elated Jonathan Noble, Diaz's campaign field marshal, gushed, "Manny does what a lot of other candidates are unwilling to do. ... He doesn't shirk his responsibilities."

This Bud's for You: Democratic 23rd Assembly miracle-baby Manny Diaz hung with the regular Joes at the Labor Temple before being spirited off to mariachi heights previously unknown.

Race Invaders

Of course, Diaz's chances weren't hurt by a late race-baiting hit-piece on the African American West--calling him "the Oakland Raider"--financed by a mysterious committee called the California Voter Project, which listed a bogus address in Santa Clara. ... Meanwhile, the mood at West headquarters on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen was much more somber, as supporters drowned their sorrows in merlot, chardonnay and lemon-lime soda. West remained admirably chipper despite facing his second electoral defeat in two years (he lost his bid for city council in 1998 to Cindy Chavez). "I don't have any regrets," West insisted. So did West campaign manager Tom Sagau, who quit his 10-year job with the city's Project Crackdown to run his friend's campaign when his boss wouldn't give him a leave of absence. "I wouldn't take it back at all," Sagau said. "Friendship and loyalty are very important to me."

Heart and Sold: District 6 council aspirant Ken Yeager thanked supporters at Lou's Village in a strained and raspy voice, which won't get much better between now and his November runoff against longtime Willow Glenite Kris Cunningham.

Bedtime and Barcaloungers

If there were any frenzied party-till-dawn political festivities on election night, they weren't on the quiet suburban streets of District 6 (Willow Glen and Rosegarden). Long before curfew, proud cop and council candidate Jim Spence was home in his Barcalounger watching TV. He pulled in a solid 17 percent of the vote, but nowhere near enough to compete with candidates Ken Yeager (38.5 percent) and Kris Cunningham (32.8 percent), who graduate to what promises to be a close face-off in November. ... Lounging in the comfort of the Lou's Village banquet hall, one Ken Yeager supporter swore that the soft-spoken poli-sci prof had been swinging from the chandeliers earlier in the evening. However, that same fan suggested that Bill Chew would have raked in the votes if he'd switched to roller blades. Yeager actually spent the evening nursing a bad case of laryngitis and a bottle of Budweiser. Despite his sore vocal chords, Yeager seemed in good spirits, especially given some last-minute campaign nastiness. On Monday, someone hand-delivered an anonymous flier warning, "This openly gay man [Yeager] is running for City Council seat #6 in San Jose! Know who you are voting for when you mark your ballot on March 7, 2000!" Representatives for Spence and Cunningham denied any involvement in producing or distributing the hate-bait. ... Meanwhile, good girl Kris Cunningham transformed her Willow Glen home into a hopping late-night party. Cunningham chatted it up with supporters into the wee hours, with humble folks like mansion-owner Christopher Schumb. Meanwhile, husband Gary kept the wine flowing and son Patrick updated the group with results fresh from the web. The table spread featured shrimp, chips and spinach dip in a bread bowl, but it looked like the entire Willow Glen High football team had stopped by with a bad case of the munchies. ... Cunningham's supporters seem unfazed by Yeager's narrow lead--he came in about five percentage points ahead. Cunningham backers say they plan to plot out phone calls and precinct walking in the near future. Still, Cunningham reports she first needs to spend time with the family, tend to her garden, and find the cat, who, despite leftover shrimp, had run off in terror of the election-night crowd.

Hello, Dolly: By late Tuesday night, Dolly Sandoval was heartened to learn she was dancing into a runoff with Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss for the north county supe seat.

Feta Accompli

In the Palo Alto home of math prof Tony DiJulio and his wife, Jan, a cancer nurse, jubilant supporters of Mayor Liz Kniss munched kiwi fruit and cubed feta cheese while toasting her victory with Mendocino bubbly. Also effervescent was fellow Palo Altan and leading California law enforcement babe Laurie Smith. Fresh from having bones fused, the sheriff was wearing a bright red Fiberglas wrist cast. "I was rescuing children from a burning building," she lied. "She was picking up her paycheck," corrected Mountain View councildude Ralph Faravelli, as he orangutan-knuckled the floor in a heavy lifting maneuver. ... Kniss, who led the polls all evening and will square off against teacher Dolly Sandoval in the November runoff, was justifiably proud of her compact Internet domain, kniss.com. "Well, I work @ Sun Microsystems," the former public health nurse turned mar-comm manager bragged, and added that she had also registered kniss.net and kniss.org. Had she also defensively registered names that could be used by detractors, Eye baited, and helpfully offered a few suggestions. "We are NOT going to register kniss-sux.com!" she declared. ... As the conversation devolved further after 11pm, battle-fatigued Joe Simitian shlumped in with droll humor in tow and hugged his former council mate and likely supe-cessor. "That Green Party candidate up there in San Mateo is kinda pissing me off. She's taking 9 percent of the vote," the 21st Assembly District front-runner faux-groused. By final count, Green Gloria Purcell only peeled off 7.9 percent of the vote, leaving big Joe 55.6 percent, the electoral equivalent of a clearcut, which would make even Simitian donor Pacific Lumber proud.

And Can We Get Extra Cheese on Those? Mayor Ron Gonzales, a veritable powerhouse of opinion this election, did not get everything he wanted.

Fire and Reign

Meanwhile, over in District 10, "Pop songs of the 1970s" seemed to be the unintended theme of Almaden council incumbent Pat Dando's celebratory bash. Before the clock had struck 11pm, and with just over half the precincts in, Dando took the makeshift stage at Bogey's pizza parlor on Almaden Expressway to announce her 73-23 victory over opponent Nancy Pyle, uttering the words immortalized by James Taylor: "How sweet it is." (Well, all right. Possibly she was more familiar with Jackie Gleason.) But no matter; the fans went wild--even the normally restrained ladies of Almaden shook their helmet hairdos and whooped in unison for their favorite rockin' Reep rep. With campaign manager Erik Schoennauer beaming from the sidelines, Dando introduced her mother, kids and husband, dropping another line from pop music's past--after all these years, "you're still the one." Behind the pop culture references, Dando and Schoennauer pouted openly about the tenor of the Mayor Ron Gonzales-backed Pyle campaign, which had criticized Dando for inflating her teaching credentials, among other things. Sources tell Eye that Gonzo goons had a very active role in the Pyle campaign and were quite pleased with all the Dando-bashing. And why not? Pyle, whom the mayor essentially sent on a political kamikaze mission against the popular incumbent, leveled all the attacks Gonzales didn't have the guts to do himself when he ran against Dando two years ago. ... But all's well that ends well. Said Dando to her cheering constituents, "District 10 did not succumb to negative campaigning, and for that I am more grateful to you than you can know."

Napoli Time

The mood was equally buoyant at the south San Jose home of Kathy Chavez Napoli, who awaited the results of the District 2 race with two dozen of her friends and supporters. Between milling about a table loaded with traditional Mexican fare and staring at what may be the largest TV ever made, the Napolitans chatted about their favorite subjects: the proposed Calpine plant and the unscrupulous sign-posting habits of IBM company man and opponent Forrest Williams. As the first report rolled in shortly before 9pm, showing Napoli squarely behind Williams--but ahead of Maria Ferrer--the optimism in the room scarcely wavered. Napoli theorized that perhaps as the precincts nearest to the proposed power plant came in, her numbers would improve. Santa Teresa Citizens Group rabble-rouser Elizabeth Cord joked that if Williams won that would be fine with her--she'd just have to move. At which point someone else quipped, "No, you'll be thrown out."

Menu at Work

It was a decidedly sweet-and-sour election-night bash for 4th District City Council candidate Kansen Chu, and we're not just talking about the sliced pork and chicken wings on the buffet spread, either. True, newcomer Chu had forced a November runoff with insider heavyweight Chuck Reed, but he trailed the environmental lawyer by 2,085 votes. Asked when he was going to start round two of the campaign, a clearly weary Chu volunteered, "Tomorrow," with a wry smile, and looked around in hopes that his supporters would contradict him. They didn't. ... His supporters were upbeat, especially daughter Ann, who was already adding the also-ran's totals to her father's and predicting a victory in the fall. Chu's after-party was held miles from the Berryessa-Alviso district, at his Ocean Harbor Restaurant in the Town & Country shopping center, maybe to emphasize his campaign theme as a political outsider.

Winners Circle

Forgoing the traditional living-room party, or even the rented conference room at a local hotel that many council hopefuls spring for, San Jose City Council District 8 (Evergreen) candidate David Cortese brought his supporters somewhere closer to his heart: the cherry-packing room at the back of his family fruit stand. Though cold and damp, the bar was stocked and no one seemed to mind the chill. It's a spot that holds a lot of memories for Cortese. "I used to run around here barefoot when I was a kid," the son of Dom told Eye, looking around at his family and supporters wrapped in their winter coats. "It was like something out of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song." Cortese landed a victory against three other candidates, just a few points under the 50 percent he needed to avoid a runoff. In November, Cortese will go up against cable-guy Eddie Garcia, who edged out Maria Fuentes and Patricia Martinez-Roach. Cortese wins points for his well-stocked liquor table, complete with a blender, and for the tasty pasta, meatballs and sausage whipped up by his uncle. "Help yourself," he urged Eye. "That's better than anything you'll get at the back room of the Hyatt."

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From the March 9-15, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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