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Election Fallout: There are still some hard feelings after Manny Diaz (above) beat Tony West in a tough Assembly race last week.

Public Eye

Raider Traitor?

THE NASTY, racially charged Assembly campaign clash between San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz and Assistant Attorney General Tony West may be over, but the wounds haven't healed for everyone yet. To wit: This weekend local pols received an anonymous email accusing African American labor activist Tony Alexander of spying on West, who is black, and leaking "vital campaign information" to the union-supported Diaz. "Is Tony Alexander a Traitor to the Black Community?" the email title asks rhetorically. The author goes on to suggest that Alexander, a store auditor for United Food Commercial Workers, Local 428, warned Diaz strategists of pending hit pieces so he could respond to the attacks immediately. For instance, on the same day a West-paid brochure accusing Diaz of being a deadbeat dad hit mailboxes, a letter arrived from Diaz's first wife, Ofelia, saying Manny had "met all his obligations as a father to our children." Still, the screed is short on proof of Alexander's alleged covert activities. (After all, a deadbeat-Diaz story appeared in the Mercury News four days before the Ofelia letter arrived.) The author claims that on election night someone "overheard bragging about the ... spying operation." The other "evidence": A photo that appeared in Metro last week showing Diaz in the foreground shaking hands with a supporter; Alexander can be seen chillin' in the background. But the missive incorrectly says that the photo was taken at Diaz's election-night victory party. In fact, it was snapped at the Labor Temple earlier in the evening at a pre-party rally for labor-supported candidates. "Maybe since Tony Alexander's only past work experience is as a grocery clerk," the email reads, "he does not realize that people are using him as their paid house-negro." For his part, Alexander denies he spied on the West campaign: "I wasn't involved in either campaign." And Michelle McGurk, a West field-coordinator, says that Alexander didn't participate in any private campaign-strategy meetings. Alexander refused to speculate on who might have sent the email, but several sources say that it might have been an Alexander rival in the African American Democratic Club. The Democratic Club and Alexander's African American Democratic Coalition crossed swords in 1998 when the club backed mayoral contender Pat Dando, while the coalition endorsed Ron Gonzales.

Mo' Manny

Meanwhile, the post-election healing process continues at San Jose City Hall. Diaz, one regular groans, "has been walking around like a rooster on acid. He's got his chest puffed out and keeps pecking at everyone and getting in their faces." Diaz, of course, has reason to be miffed at some of his sixth-floor colleagues. Diaz had hoped to get the support of Vice Mayor Frank Fiscalini, but the decline-to-state man instead snubbed him and went with West, and also loaned out his chief of staff to the West campaign. And even though Councilman John Diquisto backed Diaz, Diquisto aide Dawn Wright helped West. To bring home the point of who was still standing after election day, Diaz and his council ally, Cindy Chavez, hung up a Merc article with the headline, "Diaz dominant player after primary win." Scott Strickland, Chavez's chief of staff, points out that the article was strategically hung so Fiscalini's and Diquisto's staff could see it. "One might think we'd be too mature for taunting," Strickland chuckles, "but we're not." Already a few names have started floating around as possible successors to Diaz, who will leave mid-term next year for the Assembly: Santa Clara Valley Agua District director Tony Estremera, Diaz aide Nora Campos, and Tony Arreola, a senior adviser to Mayor Ron Gonzales.

Cell Hell

If wasting $1.26 million of your own money on a failed congressional bid weren't demoralizing enough, consider poor Bill Peacock's tortured concession call to Democratic victor Mike Honda last week. With defeat inevitable, Peacock--who lost by 25 percentage points--dialed Honda's cellphone number shortly after 11pm. While Peacock was in the middle of conceding and congratulating his opponent, Honda's cell phone cut out. Undeterred, Honda dug up Peacock's number and called him back. And then his cell phone cut out again, prolonging Peacock's agony. Finally, Honda got on a landline and Peacock finally was able to finish his goodbye properly, according to campaign manager Jennifer Van der Heide.

Royal Flush

Eye-watchers will recall that in July 1998, Garden City Casino filed for bankruptcy protection to get card-club landlord Ernest Pestana--who was demanding about $7 million in back rent--off its back. Nearly two years later, with negotiations between Pestana and Garden City owner Eli Reinhard going nowhere, a bankruptcy court officer has ousted Reinhard and appointed attorney Frederick Wyle to oversee the club's operations and resolve the dispute. Wyle, who previously served as a bankruptcy trustee for the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles, says that he has no specific deadline to settle the case, but acknowledges, "I'm trying to hurry it up." A year ago, Reinhard lobbied City Hall unsuccessfully to move the club from Saratoga Avenue to a prime spot near the airport where he could pay less rent. Meanwhile, Irene Pestana, Ernie's wife, has applied to state regulators for a gaming license, which would open the door for Mrs. P. to buy the casino from Reinhard. But Michael Isaacs, the attorney for Garden City's creditors, says that state officials have yet to rule on whether to grant Pestana a license. However, City Hall and gaming sources say there's someone else who might want to take Garden City off of Reinhard's hands: rival card club Bay 101 and its owners, the Bumb family. But Jackie Rose, spokesgal for Bay 101, cautions, "It would be purely speculation now. We have no idea what is the viability of Garden City."

Snail Mail

Despite posting a second-place finish and qualifying for the November runoff, District 6 (Willow Glen) City Council candidate Kris Cunningham isn't exactly thrilled with how SF-based political consulting firm Terris, Jaye & Barnes ran her campaign. In fact, Cunningham says that she hasn't decided if she will hire the company to run her fall campaign. "I'm not positive yet--we're going to talk," Cunningham reveals. "I haven't made up my mind completely. ... There were some things that were really good, and there were some things that weren't as good." It seems as if the Cunningham crew felt like the San Fran boys were a little too busy to tend to the details of her little San Jose council campaign. For instance, Cunningham was disappointed that two pivotal brochures arrived in mailboxes the same day (thus minimizing their impact). Consultant Barry Barnes blames the faux pas on the San Jose post office, which he says experienced delivery delays because of a massive census mailing. Due to delivery quirks, Barnes says, mailers sent three days apart both arrived on the same day. "San Jose had very spotty turnaround," Barnes tells Eye, adding that despite the mail mixup, his client is well positioned for the runoff against poli-sci guy Ken Yeager.

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From the March 16-22, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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