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Gov. Rainmaker?

Our big, nurse-butt-kicking hunk of GOVERNATION may be slipping in the polls, but local incumbents in the upcoming elections still think Arnie's a dreamboat. Mainly, they're licking their chops at the thought that Schwarzenegger is raising $30 million to hold a special election in November, since his controversial measures—which he claims will reform things like redistricting, state spending and the tenure of public school teachers—will boost turnout in an off-year race. Such elections normally turn out less than 20 percent of voters, but the fire these issues will light under the asses of both sides could pump that number up to 50 percent. Traditionally, a higher turnout gives incumbents a huge advantage because they have more name recognition, are able to raise more money and reach more potential voters. "Go Arnold!" gushes Sunnyvale's JOHN HOWE, who doesn't even have an opponent yet. "It's music to my ears. He couldn't help an incumbent any better." One setback: A poll by the Public Policy Institute found that 62 percent of likely voters would prefer Schwarzenegger wait until the June '06 primary to push the initiatives.

Grudge Match

Why all this fuss over CINDY CHAVEZ's mayoral campaign—which, let's not forget, doesn't even exist yet, officially? We'll tell you why: because even without announcing her intention to run, Chavez is the early favorite in many circles. But everyone's talking around the issue—it's big news, for instance, that Chavez has been linked to political consultant MARY HUGHES. What has yet to be mentioned is that Hughes comes with a lot of baggage. She ran TONY WEST's failed campaign against Assemblyman MANNY DIAZ, ROD DIRIDON's failed campaign against SALLY LIEBER, TOM HAYES' run against JOHN VASCONCELLOS and county Supe LIZ KNISS' bid against DOLLY SANDOVAL. One Fly source suggests that some of her former opponents are still fuming over Hughes' campaign tactics. "All of which carry hard feelings with certain people who Cindy needs support from," says the source, referring to labor's endorsement. But Chavez can take comfort in the fact that at least one person on that list isn't harboring a grudge. "I've totally moved on," says Sandoval. "And for me not to endorse Cindy because she selected Mary Hughes as her campaign consultant would be ludicrous." It remains to be seen if the others will be so upbeat.

Goodbye, Maria

NANCY PYLE's former pugilistic campaign manager has become the District 10 councilwoman's former pugilistic chief of staff. ANA MARIA ROSATO was canned last week less than five months on the job. The reason? Pyle won't say. She asked her new chief of staff, LELAND C. WILCOX, fresh out of Sonoma State and a few years in the Legislature, to return our call. Wilcox sent over a press release thanking Rosato for helping Pyle win office last fall. (The release also said Wilcox was a member of Sonoma's varsity soccer team, in case you were wondering about his ability to kick a ball.) Rosato wasn't the most popular chief of staff on the sixth floor. She was known to be as combative with other council offices as she was during the election. (One staffer described Rosato's conversational approach as "random" and "odd.") During last year's race, Rosato took partial credit for a hit piece that darkened RICH DE LA ROSA's face and inferred he was an East Sider trying to infiltrate District 10's upscale, lily-white neighborhoods. When De La Rosa complained, Rosato responded sarcastically, "Poor Rich. I can only imagine how disappointing it is that he didn't make it." We tried to contact Rosato at her north San Jose apartment but she wasn't havin' it. She becomes the second staff person Pyle's fired since taking office in January. The entry code to councilmember offices was changed after the first firing, leading some to believe something serious had gone down.

But Who'll Protect Us From Pat?

It's been a wild ride for OMAR AHMAD, who just announced he'll step down as chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, effective at the end of the month. In 11 years with the largest Muslim civil rights agency in the country, Ahmad has:

- responded when a Republican policy analyst called the Islamic religion an outgrowth of "the darkness of heathen Araby";

- defended Islam when televangelist PAT ROBERTSON went on a verbal bender, placing Muslims below Nazis on the historical scale of evil;

- rebuked the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who described the prophet MUHAMMAD as "a demon-possessed pedophile";

- denounced JOHN ASHCROFT's Department of Justice for asking 3,000 Middle Eastern men living in America to "voluntarily" submit to interviews with DOJ agents. "We need new leadership to take CAIR to the next level," says the 45-year-old Ahmad, a Jordanian software developer who has lived in San Jose for 24 years. "We need someone who can bring new ideas I might not have." As the group's founding chairman, Ahmad leaves behind a mostly positive legacy: CAIR has worked with the ACLU to combat provisions of the Patriot Act, and helped mainstream the term "Islamaphobia," the irrational fear of the second largest religion in the world. Unfortunately, as Ahmad is well aware, cases of abuse against Muslim Americans are on the rise. CAIR reported 1,500 incidents of violence, harassment or discrimination in 2004, up 50 percent from the prior year. "It's basic ignorance of Islam," Ahmad says, fueled by right-wing radio hosts who "explain things in a negative way." Ahmad admits he's been his own worst enemy at times: in 2000 he endorsed GEORGE W. BUSH for president. "It was a stupid decision," he says. Ahmad says he'll still be available if CAIR needs him. "Many Muslims were questioning why we needed a civil rights organization. After 9/11, they understood we need protection from within the community. At last someone was doing something.

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From the June 1-7, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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