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Cruise Control: Mayoral aspirant Ron Gonzales, considered a heavy favorite, is sticking to his primary election message. His opponent, Pat Dando, is shifting her focus to traffic management.

Bumper to Bumper

With opponent Pat Dando a mere padiddle in his rearview mirror, mayor-in-waiting Ron Gonzales appears content to hit cruise control and coast into office. Except for some minor tweaking, his ballot statement for the runoff--submitted earlier this month--is a rerun of his previous one: "Great schools. Less traffic. Safe neighborhoods." ... Dando, meanwhile, is trying to rev up her campaign with a rebuilt engine and a new message. Under the wing of her new consultant, McNally Temple Associates, Dando is discarding main themes from the primary that didn't work: protecting kids from porno on the Internet and her 24 years in San Jose (which foreshadowed later attacks on Gonzales as a Sunnyvale carpetbagger). She also is shedding the moniker of "Patricia" and is asking a fellow patrician, city clerk Pat O'Hearn, to use just "Pat" on the ballot. ... Judging from her new ballot statement, Dando plans to focus on traffic management and attack Gonzales for his support of the massive Town & Country project which "increases traffic," she warns. Pundits question the wisdom of aligning herself with a failed referendum drive, but her consultants obviously think it can be used as a wedge issue, referendum or not. Expect to see a campaign hit-piece showing a picture of a gridlocked Valley Fair entrance (across the street from Town & Country) linking Gonzales to the project's "east-coast developers." It's not a surefire strategy, but voters are a helluva lot more worried about traffic than Internet porn and legal immigration from Sunnyvale. ... Dando's not the only one to hitch a ride on the traffic issue. District 1 City Council candidate Linda LeZotte is building her entire campaign platform around it. And District 3 council hopeful Tony West managed to sneak in a passing reference in his ballot statement to his commitment to "less neighborhood traffic." Not to be outdone, Chuck Gillingham and Cindy Chavez also profess to be devout traffic-haters, making for quite a rhetorical gridlock.

Devoted Spouse

A little technicality like living full-time in South Lake Tahoe didn't deter Brannan Smith from voting for his wife, Laurie Smith, for Santa Clara County sheriff. Records show that Brannan voted in the county's June primary, when his wife outpaced a field of five candidates to qualify for the November showdown. Whether Brannan, a retired San Jose police officer who once ran for council in Tahoe, violated election laws by casting a long-distance vote is an open question. Regulations indicate that a person is allowed to vote in the area he considers his primary "domicile." One legal test is where the voter claims a homeowner's exemption, a $70 tax break given to people who live on their property. Brannan claims an exemption in Lake Tahoe, while Laurie claims one in their Palo Alto condo, where she spends most of her time. Brannan confesses that he registered in Santa Clara County because he "felt an allegiance" to his wife's boss, Sheriff Chuck Gillingham, who returned that loyalty by endorsing Assistant Sheriff Tom Sing in the primary. Smith quickly adds that he also spends plenty of time in Palo Alto. Registrar Dwight Beattie says the situation is a legal gray area. Smith's consultant, Rich Robinson, puts it this way: "This is America. You can vote wherever you want to."

Coming to Terms

Earlier this month it was Los Gatos Councilman Steve Blanton who broke his promise not to run for a third term. Now, Los Altos Hills Councilwoman Toni Casey, a self-professed champion of term limits, is performing her own flip-flop. ... Casey first served on the Town Council from 1988 to 1992, before going down in defeat. She returned in 1994 in a lather about incumbent Barbara Tryon running for a third consecutive term. "She [Tryon] is blatantly disregarding the public's outcry against professional politicians," Casey ranted at the time. ... Like Blanton, Casey claims, "I got intense pressure from residents to run again." Ironically, Casey wrote the ballot argument for the upcoming term-limits ballot measure. She assures Eye she's not violating the measure because it only prohibits politicians from serving more than two consecutive terms. As for whether she'll serve a full four-year term, at first Casey unequivocally said yes. Then a few minutes later she called back to clarify: She'll serve the full term if her ally Steve Finn gets elected, too. Confused voters can practice old-fashioned term limits by not re-electing Casey.

Judge and Jury

Two weeks ago, county election officials were saying Judge Jamie Jacobs-May would have to appear on the November ballot as a candidate for superior court judge. The irony is that because of last month's court unification, Jacobs-May is already a superior court judge, so the point is almost moot. (The seat she's seeking would, however, give her two extra years on her term.) But after continued grumbling by her runoff opponent, prosecutor Joyce Allegro, county officials are seeking a second opinion. This week County Counsel Ann Ravel asked the attorney general's office to settle the dispute. ... Allegro fired off a letter last week arguing that if Jacobs-May loses the election, she should lose her current seat even though her term doesn't expire for another four years. Jacobs-May, in turn, asked Ravel for her opinion. Ravel chose to punt and ask the AG if Jacobs-May can voluntarily withdraw her name from the ballot and if she would lose her current seat if she loses the election. The county's hoping for a response by Aug. 27, the last day to tweak the fall ballot. "I'll tell you one thing," snickers a criminal justice observer, "should they both serve as judges, it's safe to say they won't be enjoying a close working relationship."

Press Relations 101

Eye-watchers should read the following as a lesson in how not to put a campaign rumor to rest. Shortly after Pat Dando replaced consultant Ron Smith with McNally Temple Associates, rumor spread that Dando's trusty campaign manager, Erik Schoennauer, was also going to be replaced. Eye phoned Schoennauer to confirm the loose talk. Ever the stonewaller, Schoennauer mustered all the honesty he could and uttered his favorite mantra: "Noooooo comment." In the political gossip biz, a "no comment" is practically an admission of guilt. After Eye started poking around for the inside scoop, insiders started buzzing about Schoennauer's apparent demotion. Then Eye called Tab Berg at McNally Temple to see if he would be replacing Schoennauer in the trenches. No, Berg said. Schoennauer will handle the basic manager duties, though McNally Temple "isn't big on giving titles." (Memo to Tab: Just don't put Erik in charge of handling the press.)

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From the August 20-26, 1998 issue of Metro.

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