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Hail Jude

[whitespace] Jude Barry

The man behind Ron Gonzales is credited with his rapid ascension

By Will Harper

TWO MONTHS BEFORE the 1988 primary, San Jose political consultant Roger Lee was looking for someone to manage the campaign for his client, Ron Gonzales. Lee decided to call up an old business pal, Washington, D.C., media specialist Joe Trippi. Richard Gephardt's presidential campaign had just gone up in flames, and Lee asked Trippi if anyone from the Gephardt campaign needed work. As Lee recalls, Trippi told him he had just the guy: a bright and energetic 25-year-old Asian kid who grew up in the South Bay.

The kid's name was Jude Barry. Just three years out of college, he already was something of a veteran of big-time Beltway politics. He first worked as an unpaid intern for U.S. Sen. Teddy Kennedy, where he met behind-the-scenes superstars like Bob Shrum and Bill Carrick (Carrick is now gubernatorial candidate Jane Harman's top consultant), then moved on to the presidential campaigns of Gary Hart and Gephardt.

"At the time, I just made a six-week commitment to run Ron's campaign," Barry recalls. "I just thought I was going to come home for a while, see my mom and then go back to D.C. after the primary."

Instead, he stayed on to guide Gonzales to victory in the general election and then spent the next eight years as the supervisor's chief of staff and his most trusted aide. Barry liked Gonzales and his father, Bob, and realized during his six-week "visit" that he wanted to return to his hometown and settle here.

He quickly developed a reputation among his counterparts for being both brilliant and cunning. Media-savvy and reporter-friendly--he originally wanted to be a journalist before going into politics--he would be fingered by his peers as the source anytime embarrassing stories appeared in the newspaper about Gonzales' foes. It's an undeserved reputation, Barry says, because he rarely makes an unsolicited call to a reporter. In the past Barry has even tried to dissuade Metro reporters from pursuing stories about opponents that he thinks are out of bounds.

Barry's importance to Gonzales' political success can't be overstated, says Joe Guerra, chief of staff for Councilman Frank Fiscalini. "Ron Gonzales wouldn't be where he is today without Jude Barry," says Guerra, a schoolmate of Barry's at Bellarmine Preparatory School. "Jude has kept Ron's eye on the prize. He's the one who drew the road map showing Ron how to get where he wanted to go."

Among his own staff, Barry is known as a tough and demanding boss. Only one other Gonzales policy aide survived more than four years in the supervisor's office. "I'm demanding, but I don't think I'm a hard-ass," he says, conceding that he is the kind of boss who has "no hesitation to ask for multiple rewrites [of office memos]. Nothing leaves the office with a typo or incorrect verb."

Like any good political adviser, he gladly takes the heat for his boss. One board aide for another supervisor likens it to a good cop, bad cop routine. "The real question," the aide says, "is who is really the bad cop--Ron or Jude?"

If Gonzales' father embodied his heart and soul, then Barry represents his calculating intellect. Barry's Mr. Spock-like hyper-rationalism--which he attributes to his Jesuit education--can make him seem unfeeling.

He even talks with Vulcan-like matter-of-factness about the most distressing time in his life, when his baby boy, Justin, spent three months in the intensive care unit for infant botulism two years ago. During that time, Barry cut back on his office hours so he could spend as much time as possible at the hospital. Justin survived.

Asked if the experience changed him, Barry reflects, "I don't think it did, and this may be a rationalization. I had this view that everything was going to be OK. He was getting the best medical care available, so I was blindly optimistic throughout the whole experience."

(Barry and his wife, Jeanette Carmody, a local public relations consultant, are expecting their second child in October.)

Even though Barry says the experience didn't change him, it certainly changed the way some of his colleagues looked at him. A former Gonzales staffer says he noticed that afterward, Barry seemed more mellow, like he had a new perspective on what's most important in life.

Right now, the most important thing appears to be getting Ron Gonzales elected mayor. If Gonzales wins, Barry, now an assistant to the provost at Santa Clara University, is clearly the leading candidate to be his chief of staff. And you can bet he'll make sure that, politically, his boss lives long and prospers.

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From the May 7-13, 1998 issue of Metro.

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