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The Fly

Dems Beat VA

Last winter, Santa Clara County Democrats traveled to a Menlo Park Veterans Administration nursing home to register vets to vote this election cycle. To his surprise, volunteer SCOTT RAFFERTY was turned away by an aggressive physical therapist who said patients were too "demented" to vote and that only the League of Women Voters was authorized to register at the nursing home. Rafferty was so flummoxed by the therapist's attitude he left and returned with party chairman STEVE PREMINGER. The two were also turned away, but not before a couple of VA police officers detained them and took their identification. The Dems continued to persuade VA officials to permit the registration effort to no avail. Preminger eventually filed a federal lawsuit, alleging 11 violations of federal law, including the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments as well as two Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act. Last week, federal Judge JEREMY FOGEL agreed, saying it was "highly doubtful" that voter registration, even by the Democratic Party, was a partisan activity. (The Dems registered one Republican, they say.) "Defendants' exclusion of plaintiffs based solely on party obligation appears to be unreasonable," Fogel said. It's unclear what impact the ruling will have on the rest of the nation. Democrats have until Aug. 26 to show that other VA facilities are as hostile as Menlo Park—no easy task, Preminger says, since registration volunteers stopped visiting the VA after hearing what happened to Santa Clara Dems. "That's what the government wants," he says. Dems are certain the Bush administration is trying its best to keep as many vets from registering as possible. "If this is what is happening here in California, what are they going to do in the swing states?" Rafferty asks.

Down and Dirty In District 15

How tight is the race for state Senate District 15, a newly created district that extends from the Santa Barbara County border to the suburbs of Los Gatos and Saratoga? PEG PINARD, the Democratic hopeful, told a group of precinct walkers last week that a few hundred votes will separate her from Republican Assemblyman ABEL MALDONADO. Pinard, a former mayor and San Luis Obispo County supervisor who has never lost an election, is a strong candidate. She's originally from San Jose, though the city looked much different when she lived here. "Curtner [Road] was the outer limits of town," she says. But Maldonado has $1 million in his campaign chest; Pinard has little more than $100,000 at the moment. The district, meanwhile, is split 40 percent to 40 percent, Republicans and Democrats. The remainder are declined-to-state voters. With a race expected to be the closest in the state, chicanery has already reached a low point. In January, Republican operative PAUL BRUNO of Monterey enticed Green Party candidate BROOK MADSEN into the race to lure votes away from Pinard. Bruno even paid Madsen's $950 filing fee. "I think they have established what they are willing to do and what the tone will be," says Pinard, 59. On the stump, she's been stressing her strong environmental record, universal health care and education. She raises her weathered shoes to show how much campaigning has taken its toll. She's hard-pressed to prove wrong critics who say she's up against big odds. "You don't tell that to an Irishwoman," she says.

Oh Soccer Investor, Where Art Thou?

Voice of the Earthquakes JOHN SCHRADER emceed Soccer Silicon Valley's rally last week and told everyone to knock on their neighbor's door to ask for $40 million. The Quakes are looking for a local investor to purchase the team from Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which is considering shuffling the Quakes off to Texas. The Quakes have until Sept. 17 to find a buyer or at least secure a plan for a new stadium. The rally itself was a monumental success, drawing more than 500 folks, many of whom wore Earthquake blue. "The Earthquakes have a great fan base," said Santa Clara Mayor PATRICIA MAHAN afterward. "I was there [at the rally] as a soccer fan lending my support." Conversely, San Jose Mayor RON GONZALES was not present. "Rallies are great spirit builders," said the mayor's spokesman, DAVID VOSSBRINK, "but they don't necessarily have the impact on the bottom line that is really going to drive this. ... It's going to come down to people with term sheets, deal proposals and money." Saving face, Gonzales said in the Mercury News Aug. 22 that the city may help, "within reason." So, somebody go out and find a millionaire soccer fan, now.

Merc Puts Out

The Merc is again under the eye of the ever-alert JOHN McMANUS, director of the Stanford-based media watchdog organization gradethenews.org. Recently, Grade the News focused on the Merc's reporting on the TERRY GREGORY ethics investigation in its editorial pages. Now, McManus has written a sarcastic letter to the Merc about its "devoted" front-page coverage of the SCOTT PETERSON case, namely of AMBER FREY's testimony. "Ooooh-la-la!" McManus writes. "Such a welcome distraction from The New York Times with its gloomy stories about how American troops are entering a pivotal stage in their battle to suppress opposition forces across southern Iraq. That war will be going on for months, maybe years! Amber will only be on the stand for a week or two." McManus not only rants about the Merc's interest in reporting each and every intimate detail--the red strapless gown, the strawberries, going all the way on the first date, skintight leopard print pants—but, in a conversation with Fly, raises the point that the Merc seems to enjoy rolling in the smut more than its neighbor, the San Francisco Chronicle. "The Mercury is committing suicide by trying to compete with television stories like this," McManus tells Fly. "The Mercury displaced more from its front page to cover the story [than the Chronicle]. The Chronicle covered it, but the Mercury wallowed in it. It must be a tad embarrassing for the many wonderful journalists at the Mercury News to see their paper descend to this."

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From the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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