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[whitespace] Rod Diridon Jr. Junior League: Many thought Rod Diridon Jr. would come out on top.

Public Eye

Suddenly Sally

Election Day's biggest surprise around these parts was SALLY LIEBER's winning the Assembly District 22 primary over fellow Democrat ROD DIRIDON JR., who was favored by just about every political wonk in town. Voters, however, favored Sally with 44 percent to Rod's 36 percent. The big win shocked political observers and Junioristas alike. What happened? In a desperate search for answers, Eye queried more than a dozen of the best political minds on its speed dial. Responses went something like this: Roddy's youth and short record probably hurt, but Sally's last-minute flurry of mail plus the late independent expenditures hitting Rod helped seal the deal. Another factor may have been Measure N, the controversial Home Depot ballot item in Mountain View, which increased turnout there. Another plus for Sally was that a low-turnout primary brought out more liberal voters. And on top of that, the Diridon pedigree and long list of endorsements may not be as bankable as previously thought. ... Strangely, Lieber's win fuels more entertaining theories about November. Some insiders say Lieber's upset might mean Republicans are re-evaluating the viability of their man, ex-Sunnyvale Councilman STAN KAWCZYNSKI, who ran unopposed in the primary and is taking his third shot at the seat. "There's real concern about Sally, that Stan might have a chance if the Republicans do some tracking on issues and then throw a bunch of money into the race," says one longtime operative. The 22nd is a safe Democratic district, split 45-30 with Republicans, but Republicans say they're still not giving up. "It does invite us to take another look," says California Republican Party spokesman ROB STUTZMAN. "The registration in that district is still tough, but of the three candidates it appears they haven't nominated the strongest one." Assembly Republican political director MATT REXROAD says getting the liberal Lieber over the more moderate Diridon could give Kawczynski more of a shot with the 20 percent of voters in the district registered as independents. "Up here in Sacramento, everyone thought Diridon would win, so now we really have to take a look at what our opportunities are. The nominee did change our outlook, and in all circumstances this should be a Democratic seat, but if you add up Republicans and independents we can get to 51 percent without getting a single Democrat." ... But seriously, most observers laugh at Kawczynski's chances--he was the subject of an ethics probe and reprimanded for "disruptive, immature and inappropriate" behavior by council colleagues in 1999--and say it's pure fantasy that he'll get help from the party. But don't tell him that. "My outlook has changed for the better," Kawczynski says.

Phone Tag

As if blowing the whistle on crooked companies isn't hard enough, a glitch in the voicemail at the district attorney's office has been inadvertently making things harder. Callers who navigated the phone maze to the DA's consumer mediation unit were treated to a recorded message. But instead of hearing a beep, the recording went on to play messages left on the line. (The only message this week was from a woman requesting a complaint form.) Informed of the glitch by Eye, a woman who answered the phone (another line, of course) proclaimed, "We're gonna call phone services." The fix improved things by playing a recording, then hanging up.

Bruised, Not Beaten

Election night wasn't going well for perennial San Jose mayoral candidate BILL CHEW, who ultimately came in last with 5,692 votes, or about 6 percent. It got a lot worse as Chew roller-skated to the county building to see the results a couple hours after the polls closed and found himself run down by a police cruiser across the street from City Hall. Chew tells Eye he was skating into the crosswalk at First and Mission as the light turned green when he got clipped by a young officer. The cop stopped to help Chew up, then hung out for a few minutes to make sure he was OK. Chew wasn't seriously hurt, sustaining only some bruises, so neither saw the need to make a report. The roller-candidate got up and sat on a bench for a few minutes to gather himself, but the cop's attitude didn't help things: "He got out of the car and said, 'You should be more careful,'" deadpans Chew, who insists that he always obeys pedestrian laws. "It made the blow from the few votes I got a little softer," Chew confides. "The fact I skated away from it is an indication that I'm strong and I can take anything this city dishes out."

Bond and Gagged

West Valley-Mission Community College District's $268 million bond did indeed go "down in flames" March 5, as predicted by bond foe VIC MONIA in Metro's Jan. 24 story "Field of Screams." Opponents bashed the bond because part of it would fund improved athletic facilities at West Valley College in Saratoga, where locals went all out to block the bond. Trustee CHRIS CONSTANTIN says he'll push to put the bond on the November ballot, minus the controversial "stadium" component. Monia wouldn't say if he'd continue to oppose a bond, stadium or not, but said the defeat had more to do with the district's poor management than with the athletic field. Chancellor LINDA SALTER said the opponents misled voters and ran a dirty campaign, but added, "Maybe we should have spent more time answering those attacks." Monia filed a last-minute suit against the district alleging Salter inappropriately used taxpayer money to promote the bond, but a judge tossed the case. Salter also said it didn't help the district to have one of its own, trustee JEFF SCHWARTZ, working to sink the bill. Trustee DON WOLFE also wants to try again in November: "If Schwartz and his cohorts would oppose a bond measure another time, it would be a sure sign that they're off their medication."

Cold Shoulder

Is Assemblywoman REBECCA COHN getting the shaft from new Speaker HERB WESSON? That's what it looked like Monday when Wesson named someone else to chair the high-profile Health Committee. Cohn, an ex-physical therapist who has been doing her best to ingratiate herself with Wesson for months, has been angling to chair the committee since last summer. But when the time came to name a new chair to take over for termed-out HELEN THOMPSON (D-Davis), Wesson instead tapped DARIO FROMMER (D-Glendale). "It's a huge smack, particularly because she assumed she would get it," says one Capitol observer. "She was telling everyone who would listen that she'd be the next chair of health." But the Saratoga Democrat isn't totally out in the cold. Wesson, just after he was sworn in Feb. 6, created a new committee for Cohn: Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. Dubbed "The Hollywood Committee" by one wag, it should guarantee Cohn plenty of perks--like Oscar tickets.

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From the March 14-20, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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