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[whitespace] Poker Face: Assistant Sheriff Tom Sing received a $500 contribution from an influential developer who was wanted the previous year by Nevada authorities for not settling huge gambling debts.

Double Down

Did Assistant Sheriff Tom Sing dissuade deputies from serving an out-of-state warrant on an influential developer who later gave money to Sing's campaign? Sing says no way. As always, readers can judge for themselves. Last fall Las Vegas authorities started applying heavy pressure to local cops to arrest San Jose businessman Jerry Chen, who they said had skipped town without settling his sizable gambling debts. According to an internal memo by Deputy Joseph Hicks, Chen--the developer of Lion Plaza on Tully Road and the Lion Estates residential project in Evergreen--had accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts over the past two years. When a sergeant asked Sing what to do, Sing told him that Chen was "handling the matter," meaning he was negotiating restitution with the casinos. In an interview with Eye, Sing calmly explained that he "never discouraged anyone" from arresting Chen. "I told them [the deputies], 'Do what you must,' " with the understanding, of course, that there were greater priorities, such as arresting suspected murderers and violent felons. Sing says he didn't know Chen personally at the time, though five months later the gambling man donated $500 to Sing's campaign for sheriff. A deputy familiar with the case tells Eye that Sing wasn't out of line by not making Chen's arrest a high priority. Here's why: Cops here get peeved at Nevada authorities who they believe treat local law enforcement in California like a collection agency for the casinos. And because the Las Vegas police will dismiss a warrant if a gambler makes good on his debts, local cops don't want to waste their time on an extradition case that's probably going to be thrown out of court anyway. Deputies here had reason to believe Chen could make restitution because earlier in the year he had made good on another gambling debt that had resulted in a $1 million warrant being issued, sources say. One thing is clear from the sordid case: Chen's got some problems, and they appear to be getting worse. Riverway Bank in Texas is hounding him in Superior Court to pay $2.2 million he reportedly owes the bank.

Primary Winks and Blinks

Eye departs from its regular format to offer the following list of high points, low points, points in between and a thousand points of light in this year's primary.

Proof that the Demos need Viagra: Gray Davis really was the best candidate for governor.

More proof: The Demos' top attorney general candidate--Bill Lockyer--has never tried a case in court.

Most likely to succeed: Governor Dan Lungren.

Biggest hunk: Ponytail-wielding guv wannabe Dan Hamburg.

Most financially irresponsible: Al Checchi, $30 million poorer and only a bad set of hair plugs to show for it.

Catchiest slogans: Gray Davis' "Experience Money Can't Buy" and City Council candidate Tony West's "West--The Best Direction for San Jose."

Dumbest slogan: Assistant Sheriff Ruben Diaz's "Good guy, tough cop," or was that "Good cop, bad cop"?

Oops: According to his campaign literature, Sheriff Chuck Gillingham is a fearless protector of pubic safety.

Cake and eat it: Pay close attention. Gillingham is endorsing mayoral aspirant Pat Dando, but he supports her opponent, Ron Gonzales.

Oops, part II: Assistant Sheriff Laurie Smith's Web page briefly advertised her "25 years of lay enforcement experience."

Weightiest criticism: Candidate Ted Scarlett implied in the Gilroy Dispatch that Supervisor Don Gage was too fat to run the county.

Ouch!: Senate candidate Michael Sweeney sent thousands of reproductions of a recorded $21,486 tax lien filed against opponent Liz Figueroa that listed her home address in Fremont and her Social Security number. Serial bombers don't vote, do they?

The campaign junk mail no one threw out right away: Sweeney's tax lien attack, masterminded by political hitman Richie Ross. The front of the envelope is marked, "Important tax lien information enclosed."

Waste not, want not: 87-time candidate Andy Diaz recycled signs from his previous campaigns for mayor and sheriff even though he was actually running for City Council.

Most frightening eyebrows: Pat Dando looked like she hired the makeup artist from H.R. Pufnstuf to pencil in her arches for the televised mayoral debate. Can you say, "Witchiepoo"?

Close enough: Italian-American Murphy Sabatino and Indo-Americans Mohinder Mann and Annie Dandavati are listed as Latino leaders by Dando in a mailer aimed at Hispanics.

Best impersonation of a robot: Ron Gonzales, for hypnotic repetition of poll-tested slogans, regardless of the fact that to most voters they do not compute.

Strangest bedfellows: Gonzo and former county nemeses Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Almighty Rod Diridon.

Best crystal ball: Gonzales' media guys, who filmed Councilman Frank Fiscalini saying, "Let's say no to negative campaigning" weeks before Dando actually aired her attack ads.

Negative creep: Gonzales pounded Dando for negative campaigning and then, in the same breath, mercilessly attacked her record on handgun control.

Suck-up alert: Reep Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, one of Dando's key supporters, showed up at Gonzales' victory party.

Not suitable for framing: Sheriff candidate Ruben Diaz's introductory 11-by-17 campaign mailer featuring a huge, out-of-focus close-up of the Rubester and the big fat wart on his honker.

Coolest ride: Tie between Kathy Chavez Napoli's 1997 red Corvette and Bill Chew's 1977 roller skates.

Cinderella story: Despite being stuck in a murder trial for six weeks during the campaign and getting hit with a questionably timed contempt charge, judge candidate Joyce Allegro outpaced her establishment-preferred opponents.

All stones must pass: With Tom McEnery's anointed candidates--Dando and Tony West--getting clobbered and David Pandori retiring, the McEnery era is all but over.

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From the June 4-10, 1998 issue of Metro.

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