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[whitespace] Tom McEnery
The Race That Wasn't: Some say Tom McEnery dropped a comeback bid he could have won.

Public Eye

Out of Tom

EX-MAYOR Tom McEnery could have been a contender, but he bought his own ticket to palookaville, and San Jose will lose out on what would have been a great title fight. Why is Tom hanging up his gloves? A couple of sources close to Mac say he was telling people he would run just two days before announcing that he wouldn't, although McEnery denies he did. "It came as a pretty severe shock," said one pal of Tom's. Surprised insiders say McEnery had a decent shot at winning in March. Add up the women unhappy with Ron Gonzales' hanky-panky, Republicans and moderate Democrats, and low-voter turnout, and balance that with the mayor's strength among Demo party activists, labor and minorities--and the numbers don't look good for the incumbent. Eye also hears that a recent poll still under wraps showed Gonzales with high negatives and around 20 percent hard support, a dismal number for any incumbent. Although there has been plenty of speculation that there's more to McEnery's decision to sit out than he's letting on, Mac tells Eye that the items on his business and personal agendas--including a book about immigrants--are more important. But one observer says McEnery may have been surprised at the lack of response he got from former supporters who now back Gonzales. Others say McEnery was spooked by the fundraising obligations and didn't want to dig into his own pocket, but McEnery says he's confident he could have raised whatever he needed. Another longtime observer theorizes that McEnery just doesn't like the work: "He's always been known as kind of a slacker." Another wag says this was Tom's last hurrah: "I think he's sealed the end of his political career . . . he's done this Hamlet thing so many times." But Tom says he's not ruling anything out. Although Steve Tedesco has been mentioned as a possible challenger, the former Chamber chief says he's decided that he won't run. John Neece says he's waiting to sit down with the mayor (which he was scheduled to do Wednesday) before making his decision, and Pat Dando still won't rule out a bid.

Line Dance

There's never any shortage of speculation when state lawmakers redraw the lines of California's Assembly, state Senate and congressional districts every 10 years. One of the rumors making the rounds in the Capitol this time is that Mountain View will move from Elaine Alquist's (D-Santa Clara) 22nd Assembly District to Joe Simitian's (D-Palo Alto) 21st District. Alquist abdicates next year, so assembly-controlling Democrats don't have an incumbent to protect. Districts belonging to Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), Kevin Shelley, (D-San Francisco) and Lou Papan (D-Millbrae) each must pick up population, and it wouldn't make sense to leapfrog across the bay. If those districts push south, Simitian's 21st--which also needs to grow--must move that way, too. And if that happens, Simitian will need about 100,000 more bodies. So Joe could lose cities like Half Moon Bay or Belmont and gain Mountain View, which has a population of 75,000, plus some of the surrounding areas. It would be advantageous for Simitian, whose district is about two-thirds San Mateo County, because he would gain areas in his former supervisorial district where voters already know his name. ... But here's the interesting part: Two of the four Democrats trying to succeed Alquist could be drawn out of the 22nd. When asked about it, Mountain View Councilwomen Rosemary Stasek and Sally Lieber took different tacks. Lieber, who already has spent $18,162 of her $245,000 war chest, didn't want to discuss it, offering only that "it's really premature on the part of all the people who are talking about it." Stasek would love to see her city jump so it becomes one of the biggest in a district. Says Stasek, "I can't favor something that's not good for the city just so I have a race to run in." ... It's a safe bet that the other two donkeys, Rod Diridon Jr. and Jack Walker, will stay put. ... But what's Simitian, who is reportedly pushing to grab Mountain View, say about all this? "I hear a rumor a day ... but there are demographic changes far removed from your district that wind up having an effect on your district like you can't imagine." Translation: It's early, it's a big state and anything could happen.

Mike at the Mic

Rep. Mike Honda, one of just a handful of Asian American members of Congress, used his recess time to lead a delegation of elected officials on an international trade mission to China. Limping along was Meri Maben, Honda's district director, who hurt her foot after a fall while hiking in Alaska. But it gets worse: During the six-day trip to high-tech operations in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and Suzhou, Maben found out she was hobbling along with a fractured leg instead of merely a sprained ankle. A Chinese MD picked up on the problem right off the bat and put Maben in a cast and on crutches. ... Honda, by the way, could have used a crutch last week to get him through his first speech to the San Jose Rotary since taking office. Honda read a prepared text on education and transportation policy and only left time for two audience questions. It's not easy following in the footsteps of eloquent crowd pleasers like Norm Mineta and Tom Campbell, but another Rotarian said Honda should take a page from their playbook: "He should have just given a quick update for five or 10 minutes then opened up the floor for questions." Honda got groans because he wasn't himself, said one political observer. Instead of talking straight policy, he should have told some stories about the dynamics of working in Washington. "Guys would have hung on his every word, because he is a good storyteller, and people like him. But you want a politician to entertain you."

RE: Redial

When Donald Perino announced his intent to run for supe against fellow Gilroyan Don Gage and Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy, the 59-year-old retiree took his announcement to just about all the newspapers that serve South County. But nobody wrote anything. Undeterred, Perino bought ads announcing his candidacy. Now, Perino has finally made some headlines. He was arrested recently for making harassing phone calls to administrators and nurses at St. Louise Regional Hospital. Perino says a nurse was rude to him when he used a wheelchair for his mother while she was being admitted. "She gave me the crazy sign and pointed at me," he says. When the phone calls continued for five days in June, hospital brass called police. A warrant was issued, and Perino turned himself in. Although his only experience in the political arena is gathering signatures for Prop. 13 in 1978, the self-described "staunch Republican" isn't letting his brush with the law stop his campaign: "Now that I'm retired I have the time."

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From the August 23-29, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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