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[whitespace] Joe Simitian Sher Wear: Joe Simitian wants Byron Sher's seat, but doesn't have his backing.

Public Eye

Combat Ready

As the jockeying to succeed termed-out state Sen. BYRON SHER (D-Palo Alto) in 2004 starts to heat up, the two up-and-coming Democratic front-runners might end up tripping each other while trying to squeeze through the same doorway. The early betting among insiders made Assemblyman JOE SIMITIAN (D-Palo Alto) the easy favorite because he already represents many of the same 11th District voters in the state's lower house. But former Assemblyman TED LEMPERT, a longtime Senate wannabe, has been quietly meeting with insiders and local officeholders in recent weeks to let it be known that Simitian won't have a clear path to senatorial splendor. Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor like Sher, has been on an electoral roll since his early 20s, cobbling together a résumé that includes stints on the Palo Alto school board, the Palo Alto City Council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors before landing his current gig in Sacramento. He's been telling supporters for years that he expects to move on to the Senate when Sher packs it in. Lempert, a longtime rival who occupied the seat Simitian has now, has been mostly out of the political limelight after gaining fame for working his base in San Mateo County to upset a Republican incumbent, becoming one of the youngest assemblymen in state history back in 1988. After eight years in the Assembly, Lempert tells Eye, "I have a huge head start with a superior list of accomplishments as a legislator. My record will speak for itself." In a move sure to surprise many longtime observers, Sher has already tapped Lempert as his choice to succeed him. Simitian, however, has his own take on the senator's decision. Lempert, he says, was convinced to back away from a run for Sher's seat in 2000 in exchange for his nod. "[Lempert] leveraged the threat of the race into an endorsement," Simitian says. "While I understand the deal that was made, I feel it's unfortunate. I'll have to make my case on the merits." Lempert, termed-out of the Assembly in 2000 (and now CEO of EdVoice, a public-education advocacy group), seems to have been a busy lad while out of office, putting together a $450,000 war chest in time to earn lots of interest before any of it has to be spent. He also lists state Sen. JOHN VASCONCELLOS (D-San Jose) and former San Jose Mayor SUSAN HAMMER in his column. Counting on strong support from his Santa Clara County base as well as from Rep. ANNA ESHOO (D-Palo Alto), Simitian says simply, "My view is [the race] is a long way off. Let's see what develops." And speaking of trip-ups, it could get worse if Assemblywoman REBECCA COHN (D-Saratoga), who Eye hears has had her eye on Sher's Senate seat (among others), decides to enter the fray. Then there's Assembly Speaker Pro Tem FRED KEELEY who could also show up in the race.

Camran Nezhat
Camran Nezhat

Malpractice Makes Perfect

Wonder brothers CAMRAN NEZHAT and FARR NEZHAT, the pioneering Stanford gynecologists who Eyewatchers may recall were accused of experimenting on women without their consent, have agreed to settle a suit with one of their accusers. STACY MULLEN, the Riverside County woman who filed a suit against the Nezhats, was the subject of a Metro cover story ("The Scalpel and the Damage Done," July 5, 2001). Mullen told former Metro staffer MARY SPICUZZA that the famous brothers did an experimental surgery called a "rectal pull-through" and pulled her colon out of her anus during a 1991 surgery for a pelvic condition called endometriosis that pathology reports later indicated may not have been necessary in the first place. After the surgery, Mullen said, a foot-long section of bowel fell out of her body. She later had to have her large intestine removed, and will use a colon pouch for the rest of her life. Stanford, as Eye noted in December, later stripped the brothers of their teaching credentials. And now, after an epic, decade-long legal fight, the suit has been dropped, but nobody's talking. Spicuzza, who interviewed Camran and Mullen for the story and is working on a master's degree in journalism at UC-Berkeley, says she's not the least bit surprised. "In the past, they've settled out of court when patients have tried to sue them, and a condition of that [type of] settlement has been not talking to the press."

Take Back The Right

Eye couldn't help but notice that BILL SIMON's brainy strategists recently resurrected a 10-year-old goof pioneered by rival Gov. GRAY DAVIS. During his failed 1992 Senate bid, Davis campaign ads compared opponent DIANNE FEINSTEIN to tax-cheat queen LEONA HELMSLEY, a faux pas that earned Gray a nice backlash from feminists. So in response to a Davis release trumpeting how much women love the guv, Simon staffers responded with a release full of quotes from women leaders bashing Davis 10 years ago. Then-Assemblywoman JACKIE SPEIER's quote labeled Davis "a desperate and despicable man," while LINDA JOPLIN, a California representative of the National Organization for Women, opined that "there are, unfortunately, people out there who are uncomfortable with women in any position of power. This plays on those fears. I think this is very sexist. I'm very disappointed Gray Davis would sink to this very questionable tactic." But while the Simon archivists get an A for memory, Simon got an F for his attempt to align himself with feminists. "There's absolutely no question as to which one is stronger on women's issues," NOW's Joplin told Eye after hearing about Simon's use of her decade-old quote. "Simon is so conservative and would be the wrong vote and would not support most of the legislation California NOW would want him to support." NOW hasn't endorsed yet, but Eye feels comfortable predicting it won't be Simon.

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From the June 6-12, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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