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Pat Answers

[whitespace] Pat Dando

From PTA mom to redevelopment queen to San Jose city councilwoman, Pat Dando's political ascension has been fast and sometimes furious. Now she wants to run this town. Her way.

By Michael Learmonth
Photos by Christopher Gardner

PAT DANDO CLIMBS up into her 1992 Ford Explorer after an 8am breakfast meeting at a coffee shop on Camden Avenue. The heel of Dando's right pump has worn a hole straight through the carpet where she props her foot on the gas. A lazy crack meanders across the windshield. Recently, she topped 90,000 miles on the odometer.

She pulls out onto Camden Avenue and soon is careening up the Santa Teresa ramp onto Highway 87. She has exactly 12 minutes to make it to City Hall for a closed session of the City Council.

Another candidate for mayor of the country's 11th-largest city, at the center of the nation's most productive economy, might have a campaign volunteer or a paid staffer at the wheel. That way the candidate could spend the time on the freeway reviewing materials for the meeting she is about to be late for. But in this, as in many things, Dando is going it alone.

"I've gotten along all these years by myself, and it works well," she says.

As a moderate Republican, she has a bare-bones campaign style that dovetails nicely with her fiscal conservatism and salt-of-the-earth campaign slogan: "Common Sense, Plain Talk, Hard Work."

To her friends and supporters, Dando's skills as a political tactician reaffirm their almost religious faith in her abilities. To her political opponents, it proves that her every move is a political calculation intended to elevate her to higher office.

As she exits 87, she pulls a cell phone from her purse and plugs it into the cigarette lighter. (She learned not to leave the phone plugged in after her Ford was broken into twice, once while parked at City Hall.) In Almaden Valley, where Dando has lived on a tidy suburban street for 24 years, few people lock their cars.

Almost immediately the cell phone rings.

"This is staged so I look like I'm in touch," she jokes. She instructs one of her staffers to have a file ready when she arrives.

When first asked how many miles were on her Explorer, Dando looks at me coyly and says, "You're not going to write that I drive a clunker, are you?"

Three years after the most expensive City Council campaign in San Jose history, Pat Dando finds herself in a familiar place. In her last election bid in 1995, Mayor Susan Hammer and most of the San Jose City Council actively supported her opponent, Meri Maben, for the District 10 council seat. In this mayor's race, a remarkable six returning members of the council have chosen to support former county Supervisor Ron Gonzales.

Even her mentor has proven unhelpful. Former Mayor Tom McEnery tied up potential Dando supporters and money by toying with his own mayoral bid until mid-December.

While Gonzales is busy rounding up most of Silicon Valley's powerful Democrats to support his mayoral bid, Dando's campaign and party affiliation have been low-profile, with a diverse coalition of voter support: cops, firefighters, homeowner associations, downtowners and Christians.

So far, it's been hit and miss. This day began with a positive breakfast meeting with a member of Almaden's Assyrian community but ended in one of the most serious setbacks of her campaign. Dando would witness venerable councilman and former ally Frank Fiscalini jumping ship for Gonzales. She would also take the first public hit of the campaign: allegations in the press that her campaign had gone negative.


Dando's young sidekick Erik Schoennauer steers a steady course.

Who's backing candidate Patricia Dando and why.


Negative Charge

A CASE COULD BE made that it all began the previous Friday, when at about noon a big, white Federal Express truck backed into the Dandos' driveway on Mount Pakron Drive in southern Almaden Valley.

Sounds of a struggle emanated from the truck's interior, as Dando's right-hand man, the diminutive Erik Schoennauer, broke a sweat in his shirt, tie and khakis as he struggled to shove a massive pallet stacked with boxes onto the truck's lift. The pallet, the first of many, he said, contained the long-awaited Dando campaign brochure. A forklift placed the stacks next to hundreds of "Dando for Mayor" signs in the garage.

Schoennauer ripped open a box, gave the brochure a once-over and thrust a copy my way.

We walked into the Dando campaign office, a converted light-blue bedroom off the garage with a sign on the door that says "The War Room." The phone rang. It was for the candidate. Erik handed the phone out the door to Dando, who carried it on a long cord into the kitchen. Schoennauer promised that when the mailings started going out, volunteers would "take over the whole house."

A decade ago, Dando sat at her kitchen table with her three teenage children, seeing that they had breakfast before sending them off to school. Now, a little more than a month before the election, the table is covered with names representing the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to wage a citywide campaign. With the fundraising deadline of May 16 at midnight looming, money has become the focus of the campaign.

Dando mentions that she offered to cap campaign fundraising at $350,000 if Gonzales would also agree to the pledge. "In that case, we would both be done fundraising," she says wishfully.

"He said, 'I don't think that's a good idea,' " Schoennauer chimes in, recounting Gonzales' response.

To be sure, it was an offer Dando knew Gonzales wouldn't take. A formidable fundraiser, Gonzales has access to the considerable resources of the local Democratic Party. Such a limit would have left little money to spend in the event of a runoff.

The next morning, the campaign brochures begin to trickle out into the community. Dando took a bunch to her first event Saturday, a visit to the Berryessa Chinese School, then to her home turf at the official dedication of the Almaden Winery Park. Precinct walkers took them door to door. By Monday at least one brochure had found its way into Mercury News reporter Barry Witt's hands. On Tuesday morning, his story ran under the headline "Dando Attacks Foe's S.J. Residency."

Until then, Dando and Gonzales had been trading the requisite campaign barbs at their joint appearances. Like clockwork, Gonzales would say that he had the endorsement of six returning members of the City Council. Point, Gonzales. And Dando never missed the opportunity to say that Gonzales moved to San Jose a short five years ago. Point, Dando.

So who's negative-campaigning? While Gonzales' brochure contains no mention of his opponent, Dando's has a side-by-side comparison in which she accuses him, among other things, of moving to San Jose to run for mayor.

By putting it in print, Dando gave Gonzales the opportunity to allege that she had "gone negative."

Once the local television and radio reporters saw the Merc headlines, Dando's fate was sealed. At an 11am interview, KCBS radio reporter Jim Taylor's first question was about "negativity rising in the campaign."

"I wouldn't call it negative, Jim; I'd call it the facts," Dando responded.

Later, on the lawn in front of City Hall, KNTV reporter Beth Willon used a previously scheduled interview to try to goad Dando into saying the word "carpetbagger."

"Are you implying that he's a carpetbagger like Jerry Brown in Oakland?" Willon asked. Dando didn't take the bait, so she rephrased--three times. Finally Willon gave up and wrapped with Dando's response:

"He hasn't dealt with San Jose issues," Dando answered. "To me it seems like musical chairs when you move from one city to another."

That afternoon, Dando was confronted with what was perhaps her campaign's greatest setback. District 6 Councilman Frank Fiscalini, her ally in the 1995 race, paid her sixth-floor council office a visit to break the news to her face to face. Fiscalini bears the scars of a hard-fought and sometimes nasty campaign for mayor against Susan Hammer in 1990. Saying, "I have always been forceful in my opposition to mudslinging and negative tactics," Fiscalini endorsed Gonzales for mayor.

Fiscalini's statement hurt, but Pat Dando's recurring political solitude doesn't seem to bother her, or her campaign manager. "Pat is not a professional politician," Schoennauer says. "This campaign is not who politicians endorse. It is about issues and records. The voters will decide."

Clean Laundry

PATRICIA M. DANDO was born on June 1, 1946, in Vernon, Texas. Her father had left her mother before she was born and contacted her only a few times before he died of cancer when Dando was in high school.

"Until he found out he was dying, he didn't seem interested," she says. "I do know that he did not want to have a child when I was born."

Six weeks after she was born, she and her family moved to Killeen, Texas, to start a laundry business in an old barrack at Fort Hood. Her mother, Julia Stout, and two uncles, Arnold and Wen, were close.

The Stout laundromat served nearby Fort Hood, and every weekend a truck would come from the base and drop off a load of dirty uniforms.

Dando remembers there were six or eight hand-cranked washers with rollers that squeezed water out of the clothes. Patrons paid five cents a load. On the weekends, Stout and daughter Pat worked furiously to get the uniforms done. Pat's job was to take the greens as they were washed, dip them in a vat of starch and hang them out on the line.

The business made the Stouts a good living. But it almost came to an end one night when someone forgot to turn off the water heater. During the night, it exploded, and the laundromat burst into flames.

"Mother and I ran out to see what happened," Dando says. "We just stood there and watched it burn. I was crying and my grandmother was, too, and I looked up and tears were coming down my mother's cheeks." What her mother said then deeply affected her.

"We will rebuild the laundry."

The Stouts searched for a loan. Finally, they found a willing banker, but--Dando says with a hint of bitterness--her uncle had to sign for it because few bankers back then would loan to women.

Stout upgraded the laundromat to coin-op and kept the business until Pat was 12.

As a teenager, Pat still worked for her mother, but this time it was managing rental properties. At the end of the month, she rode her bike to deliver money orders from her mother to pay the loan and utilities.

In 1964, she enrolled at the University of North Texas, just north of Dallas. She spent weekends with her mother in Killeen.

One weekend a friend of Pat's set her up on a blind date.

"She had only been out with schoolboys," her mother says. When the young man arrived with another couple that would accompany them, Stout grew immediately suspicious.

Stout explained that he was a lieutenant, and she knew officers were often stationed at Fort Hood for a short time. She didn't want to see her daughter disappointed.

"They were real leery," Bob Dando remembers. "There had been some bad situations with military people and local people."

When Pat got back from the date, Stout remembers she tiptoed into her bedroom to tell her about it.

"Oh, Mother, he's the nicest person I've ever met," she said, excitedly. "And he's a Baptist, and we're Baptists."

On their second date, Stout accompanied the two to a movie. A year later, the couple was married.

After he was discharged, Bob Dando took a job with General Electric, and the couple moved to Schenectady, N.Y. There, Dando finished the requirements for her degree in elementary education. At 21 years of age, it was the first time she had ever left Texas.

The Dandos started a family immediately, having three kids, Todd, Lesa and Kyle. When she was able, Pat taught school. In 1974 she taught full time.

During this turbulent time, Bob Dando remembers, some of the men he trained at Fort Hood started coming home in body bags from Vietnam. Woodstock raged about 100 or so miles away on the New York State Thruway in 1969. With one infant to care for and another on the way, the Dandos watched the concert on television.

"It seemed like it would be exciting to be a part of it," Pat now says of Woodstock. "People were questioning adult leadership, which I had never thought of doing."

Pat Dando Ready, Headset, Go: Supporters say Dando is a hardworking person who--even in the thick of the mayor's race--answers her own phone. Foes say the down-home persona is political fiction.

Madam Grandstand

BY ALL APPEARANCES, it was a typically collegial council meeting on April 21. Schoolchildren in a Brazilian samba group opened the meeting. The council took up the issue of placing a traffic light and crosswalk on Oakland Road in front of Orchard School. Some parents testified about how worried they were about their children crossing the busy street. Several members of the council spoke positively of the idea, and it appeared the noncontroversial item would sail on the voice vote.

Dando said her piece in favor and then went on the attack, berating the council for a Feb. 11 decision to start scraping up crosswalks around the city.

Susan Hammer could barely contain an expression of disgust. Dando had already sent a release to the media calling the Feb. 11 decision "absurd." Now she was going to embarrass the council again.

Trixie Johnson defended the decision, saying the crosswalk removals were due to a study that showed that some people, especially immigrants new to the country, thought that the lines meant traffic would stop, which is not the case.

Dando went on the offensive. "There is no way you can tell me that a child is safer when there is no crosswalk," she said. "Removing crosswalks sends the wrong message that San Jose favors the cars over people."

Hammer leaned over and whispered to City Attorney Joan Gallo, who interrupted the salvo to tell Dando the traffic light and the crosswalks were separate issues.

In the end, the traffic light carried on a unanimous vote and Dando got her point across.

The very next meeting, city librarian Jane Light appeared before the council to argue for a $371,213 library software purchase. Last year, Light and Mayor Hammer refused to budget for the purchase of porn-filtering software for library computers, an issue near to Dando's heart and to the hearts of her Christian supporters in Almaden Valley. Vice President Al Gore, Dando told the council, is now advocating that libraries install filtering software as a condition for federal funds. She lost the vote last summer, so this spring it's a campaign issue. When Light was at the microphone, Dando fired a shot across her bow by asking her if the new software would pre-empt the installation of filtering software at a future date. Flustered, Light said no, it wouldn't.

Schoennauer summed up his boss's legislative approach:

"We put out policies and positions we think are best for the city," he said. "If people want to agree with them, that's great. If they don't, they don't."

Dando insists that her closest advisers, the people that she goes to for advice, are in the community, not on the sixth floor. Likewise, Schoennauer said he has no close professional relationships with other council staffers, except for Margaret Tamisiea and Kelly Kline, staff aides to David Pandori.

Dando's critics on the sixth floor say that she's more interested in pursuing her political goals than working with them.

"Pat has come from day one basically running for office," says one sixth-floor staffer, "not working with us but trying to be high-profile."

Another staffer says Dando has few working relationships outside Pandori's and sometimes Fiscalini's office.

"I'm hard-pressed to find anything beyond self-interest," the staffer says. "Pat has alienated people to the extent that no one would offer advice to her."

Dando dismisses the bad blood as thin skin. Sure, she says, she stands up for what she believes in, but "when I leave the dais, I leave the policy issue behind."

Pandori sees a kindred spirit in Dando. He says that she is made to suffer unfairly for standing up for principles. In San Jose's system, the mayor has tremendous power to punish a squeaky wheel by controlling the purse strings and the committee assignments.

"If she was a calculating person, what she would have done in 1995 is go along with the ride here to have a closer relationship with the mayor and councilmembers," Pandori says. "Her lack of popularity isn't a function of her personality; it's because she is in the minority."

Says Dando: "I'm not afraid of being the lone vote."

Pat Dando

Straight Outta Almaden

DANDO'S EXPLOITS in Almaden have became legend among the soccer moms raising kids in the 1980s. Her fingerprints are all over Almaden Valley, where her family moved in 1974 to be near her husband's job at Lockheed-Martin. They start right after the point where Blossom Hill Road intersects the Almaden Expressway. Soon, the median strip becomes a lush garden of green and flowering plants. It wasn't always this way.

The city had an Adopt-a-Park program to beautify public parks, but no program to address certain areas that no one seemed responsible for. Hence, out of Dando's council office in 1995 came the Adopt-a-Spot program.

"The weeds on the Almaden Expressway drove her nuts," Schoennauer says.

Soon volunteers were planting in the median of the Almaden Expressway, Santa Teresa Boulevard and Chynoweth Avenue. And the councilwoman herself got on her hands and knees with her neighbors.

"When we did have a cleanup day, she was out there with the rest of us," Almaden Valley resident Rocki Kramer says. "She doesn't ask you to do anything that she doesn't do herself."

A little further down Almaden, next to the post office on Crown Boulevard, Kramer directs a small nonprofit, the Almaden Youth Counseling Service.

Inside the small waiting room, a boy sits, arms crossed, next to his father. A teenage girl with two-tone hair emerges from a counseling session. Inside, a boy leads his blindfolded older sister on a "trust walk" around the various office obstacles.

The service was founded in the basement of Dando's church in 1980 when Prop. 13-induced school-funding cuts ended counseling programs in public schools. About that time sleepy Almaden was wracked by two teen suicides. Dando co-founded the center as president of the Almaden Valley Women's Club. Today, the counseling center is self-supporting and serves teens all over San Jose.

Rocki Kramer is a true Dando devotee. Earlier that week, she says she called Dando's office with a problem, and sure enough, just like old times, she had no trouble reaching the candidate.

"Who is this?" Kramer asked.

"This is Pat."

"Pat, you're answering your own phone."

"Of course I am."

"She's just a real person," Kramer says. "I think people are jaded with politicians; it's refreshing to think we can have someone like Pat."

Kramer offers to take me on a tour of the neighborhood in her Taurus station wagon. We drive by the schools. First by Bret Harte Middle School, then Graystone Elementary and then Leland High. The first of Dando's three children went to Henderson Elementary before it was closed and merged with nearby Graystone.

Today Henderson is a private academy, the Country School of Almaden. But shades of the old Henderson, and of Dando's activism, remain in some of the aging school's best features. Paved areas and park benches remain from Dando's days as Henderson PTA president. And on a wall across from the cafeteria is a colorful mosaic of crushed tiles with a small plaque, "Henderson PTA 1978-1979."

In 1980, the teachers went on strike when salary negotiations broke down with the district. Dando and a few other parents decided to open classrooms on their own to be sure their children's lives weren't too disrupted by the teachers' salary dispute.

"We had to go through the picket line," remembers Carol Cooley, a parent who met Dando through the PTA. "To this day I have never experienced that kind of hostility."

Music programs were sacrificed and the school day was reduced from six to five periods to pay the teachers' salary increase.

Dando chaired the committee to reinstate the six-period day. And to this day, one of the first prerequisites Dando cites as a condition for development is that the schools in the area be expanded to receive the additional students the new neighborhoods will bring.

Kramer stops at Joey Franco's PW Market off Via Valiente, where she picks up a cake, some soda and snack food. She's shopping for Smokeless Saturdays School, a program for kids who are caught smoking on the Leland High School campus.

"We bribe them with food and Coca-Cola," Kramer says. "Then a guy with a trachea tube from smoking comes and talks to them. That really gets to them," she says.

In a sense, the anti-smoking program can be traced directly to a reaction that Dando had when she delivered her daughter Lesa to her first day of high school in 1985. Longtime friend Gayle Jones, whose son started school the same day, remembers what she said:

"Why are all these kids out front smoking? And what's with all this mud?"

Disturbed by the barren grounds, Dando contacted a local landscape contractor and got sod donated. Then she rallied parents to devote a weekend laying it down and planting trees. But the following weekend, their work was destroyed by a four-wheeling prankster. So Dando got landscaping boulders donated and filled the landscape beds with giant rocks.

There would be no more driving on the lawn.

Meanwhile, she used her board position on the PTA to have the smoking issue addressed. To her amazement, a number of high schools even maintained smoking areas for students. By the time Dando had her say, smoking was banned on all campuses in the San Jose Unified School District.

Pat's Posse

DANDO MADE HER transition from PTA mom to politics in the early '80s, when her children were older and she began to mull over her future. She hosted a coffee for Tom McEnery in her home and later worked as a campaign volunteer. In 1984, she worked to promote Measure A, which created funding for highways 85 and 87 and connected Almaden to the rest of the valley.

After McEnery's re-election in 1986, Dando took a full-time job in his office as a staff analyst alongside future Councilmember David Pandori. It was while working in McEnery's office that Dando formed the political relationships that remain her closest.

"Pat was easy to get along with but had very, very strong views," Pandori remembers. "She wanted to do things. She wasn't there to read reports and say, 'I agree, I agree, I agree.' "

Dando took a leave of absence from McEnery's office to run the 1988 initiative to build the San Jose Arena. The next year, Erik Schoennauer, a political science major who had not yet graduated from Stanford, came to work in McEnery's office.

In 1990, as McEnery left office, Dando landed on her feet as a $72,500-per-year assistant to Redevelopment Agency executive director Frank Taylor. According to the agency, the position was never advertised in the paper because it's a non-civil-service position and doesn't require the usual red tape. Instead, Taylor brought Dando into the fold via "direct outreach recruitment." Dando had served as McEnery's senior adviser for land use and had worked on redevelopment issues in the mayor's office. Apparently Taylor was pleased with her work, because her salary increased almost $20,000 in four years, while the recession forced the agency to lay off dozens of higher-ups.

Dando's reputation at Redevelopment was that she was one of the few employees at the agency who could interpret the mercurial Frank Taylor. She kept Taylor apprised of the myriad projects under way and communicated with the City Council. Her closeness to Taylor gave her significant power at the agency.

"Pat was someone who had Frank's ear," says Steve Nickerson, a senior project analyst at the agency from 1987 to 1995. "Pat could arrange a meeting. She played the power thing, and access is power."

By 1995, Dando's salary approached six figures, but she decided to leave the agency to run for the District 10 council seat, which was being left vacant after the retirement of Councilman Joe Head. Erik Schoennauer, the son of then planning director Gary Schoennauer and an aide at Redevelopment during Dando's tenure, was hired to manage her campaign.

Once elected, she pursued her agenda with vigor and without much sensitivity to the tenor of collegiality that usually characterizes City Council proceedings. And according to the elder Schoennauer, a lot of bad blood remained from the bitter campaign.

"She came on the council in a very difficult situation," he recalls. "Had I been her, I would have had a hard time tolerating certain members, especially the mayor, given how she was treated."

But Dando hung on steadfastly, continuing to dredge up pet issues, to question votes, no matter what the hour or how many eyes on the council were rolling.

A Dando mayorship would certainly shake up the status quo. Former Mayor Janet Gray Hayes says that if Dando wins, her foes could magically become allies.

"She has the power of the budget," Hayes points out. "With term limits, councilmembers want to do things for their districts, and she can say, 'Yes, I will do something in your district' and 'No, I won't do something for your district.' "

The Redevelopment Agency would be a clear winner under a Dando administration. With Dando having served as director Frank Taylor's aide-de-camp, the agency could wield unprecedented power, especially since the City Council also serves as the Redevelopment Agency board.

As for other city departments, Dando says she'll "have to review the team."

In an interview, Dando intimated that she's not happy with all city departments. She said heads likely to roll in the city administration would be those of City Manager Regina Williams, whose office she believes has too slow a "turnaround time," and Planning Director Jim Derryberry, whom Dando criticizes for not getting his office functions online. She even gave a timeline: about six months.

Pat Dando
Nobody's Patsy: True to Almaden Valley supermom form, Pat Dando drives herself around freeways and expressways to attend key mayoral debates, forums and fundraisers in her 1992 Ford Explorer.

Pat Peeves

DANDO (repackaged as Patricia Dando early in the campaign, when a much-noted makeover changed her hair and makeup into a no-nonsense, feminine style), at a candidate forum on the west side of town, sits serenely, her hands folded in her lap, her lips pressed into a polite smile. She listens intently as her opponents speak. While Gonzales keeps his hands busy flipping pages and writing notes, Dando sits motionless, as if in church. Even when she is attacked, there is no discernible change in expression.

It is Dando's temperament, Pandori says, that makes her different from her colleagues.

"She never gets that angry," Pandori says. "Pat's very mature. She knows who she is, that she's got a great family, a great husband and that [the campaign] isn't her life."

To others, Dando's outward pleasantness, in the face of the sometimes hardball politics she plays, seems disingenuous.

"She can look you in the eye, smile and stab you right in the back," says one council staffer.

Part of her relaxed style in debates comes from her uncanny mastery of the issues. There truly are few city issues on which Dando isn't extremely well-educated. In an interview, she explained in detail how she would reform the city's system for picking up yard waste. Her mastery allows her to reply to a question and then seamlessly, pleasantly respond to her opponent's attacks.

In front of the Eden Neighborhood Association, Dando withstands the standard Gonzales talking point that he has the support of the majority of the City Council.

When Dando's turn comes, she starts speaking even before she stands up. First she snaps back at Gonzales for moving to San Jose five years ago. Then she defends a governing style honed in Tom McEnery's office.

"I learned focus there, and that you don't have to be all things to all people," she says. "A mayor has to be able to say no when that is the right answer for San Jose."

Both candidates pay lip service to the desperate shortage of affordable housing in San Jose.

Gonzales talks about using Redevelopment money, building high-density housing on transit corridors, streamlining the permit process and "thinking outside the box."

Dando weighs in by taking a swipe at Gonzales for not providing affordable housing in Sunnyvale, where he used to be mayor. Then she talks about the need to capture more business so that San Jose is a worker destination and not a bedroom community. She says building permits should be available online and that she "fully supports high-density housing."

One of the few issues Dando is dancing on is her friend Pandori's Airport Traffic Relief Initiative. Dando has stumped in favor of airport expansion, but this initiative presents her with a conundrum. If it passes, the initiative could hold up expansion for greater traffic improvements and a rail link. If she opposes it, she risks alienating Pandori and the powerful Rose Garden neighborhood.

After much deliberation, Gonzales came out against the initiative and in so doing lost one of his campaign chairs, former mayor and Rose Garden resident Janet Gray Hayes.

The expansion of Town and Country mall is one of the few big issues on which the candidates have taken opposing positions.

Gonzales is in favor of expansion. "I think it's time to create opportunities for San Jose residents to spend money in San Jose."

Dando is against. "I believe very strongly in property rights, but the density being proposed there is too much."

Gonzales often criticizes Dando for being more of a contrarian than a leader on the council. "She has a history of voting against the council, not working with the council to get things done," he says. "I will do everything I can to make sure those situations are minimized."

Dando responds: "Take a look at the council's vote. The mayor and the majority of the councilmembers would not oppose having access to pornography on library computers."

The porn-filter issue is all Dando's. The Gonzales camp has been largely silent on it. The opposite argument could easily be twisted or misinterpreted. Terry Christensen says the issue should play well with her south-city constituency.

"She has a potential for a base among Christian conservatives," he says. But he notes that Dando is pro-choice, which might keep some of the Christian zeal out of the race. "I don't think Pat was their first choice, but in this race she is the best they can get."

Although Christensen believes Gonzales would "have to be weaker than he has been" for Dando to win, he thinks she will make the runoff.

"She's a potent campaigner, and women do well in San Jose politics," Christensen says.

A wild card is how much McEnery is doing for Dando behind the scenes. While Gonzales has many high-profile pols supporting him, Pandori says Dando has "a lot of people doing a little."

Other Almaden mothers who raised children around the time Dando did remain her closest friends and some of her most reliable supporters. Many back her financially as well, some donating to the $500 limit. Her campaign finance reports show that some of Bob Dando's co-workers have sent in small checks.

Another strong constituency for Dando are boosters of downtown San Jose who are more comfortable that she will continue to focus Redevelopment money downtown and not divert it to the neighborhoods. The downtowners are also reassured by Dando's stand against Town and Country.

As for McEnery's role, Pandori says the former mayor is doing "nothing extraordinary." McEnery did not return calls for this story.

As she makes her way through City Hall, Dando says hello to almost everyone who looks up from the marble floor. And when Pat Dando is coming, most people at City Hall look up.

She may not be their favorite, but on election day the neighborhoods will speak. It is a lesson they learned in 1995. "If Pat is seen as the neighborhood candidate, that will be a strength," Christensen says. "I would never write her off."

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From the May 14-20, 1998 issue of Metro.

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