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Farming Support: Radical Arianna Huffington plies San Jose voters with fresh grapes.

Public Eye

Coffee for Ari

In the midst of her "Independent Streak" tour of college campuses (and mainstream dailies' editorial board meetings), Arianna Huffington swung by San Jose's Farmers Market at San Pedro Square last Friday to mix with the locals. Huffington's form-fitting, coffee-hued outfit, shiny red hair, fancy accent and limp-wristed handshake colored her movie star-esque. She spent her time gliding up and down the block of fresh-food stands, handing out grapes and baked-goods crumbs to curious bystanders and promising vendors that she'd return for more scones. Immediately on her heals skittered a flock of perspiring, sign-holding supporters, a TV news camera, a photographer and Eye. Eye had stopped off at Starbucks for a coffee beforehand and, logo cup in hand, was worried about offending the anti-corporate, pack-leading underdog gubernatorial candidate. She, of course, equates American drivers of gas-guzzling autos with killer terrorists and writes articles called, "Corporate Tax Cheats Wreak Havoc on the Neediest Among Us." But Ms. Independent surprised Eye by responding to the corpo-cup affirmatively. "Where's Starbucks?" she asked, shooting a "go get me a latte" look at a member of her entourage. In horse-race news, the free spirit Huffington isn't doing so well at the polls (although that may not matter if the Supremes don't take up this week's recall stay from the judges of the 9th Circuit). The latest California Field Poll released this month shows that only 3 percent of likely voters would choose her to replace beady-eyed Gov. Gray Davis, should he get unelected. Deputy Default Cruz Bustamante leads with 30 percent. Arnold Schwarzenegger follows with 25 percent and Tom McClintock nips at Arnold's butt with 13 percent. Maybe the masses don't buy Huffington's legitimacy. Eye had began to question Huffington's indie cred, since, after all, she's willing to support the very nonindependent Starbucks. But she demonstrates her alternative approach in other respects, like reading the polls. She doesn't much like polls. In fact, she wrote a column advocating an all-out war on polls in 1996. "What if all 270 million of us collectively decided to hang up the next time some stranger from a polling company interrupted our dinner with moronic questions like: 'Do you describe yourself as very liberal/somewhat liberal/moderate/somewhat conservative/very conservative?'" she suggested in "A Modest Proposal." Suzie Kidder, a 55-year-old Huffington fan from Marin County, who followed the candidate to San Jose, says polls lie. "I think there is a new voter in this election," she says. "In an ordinary election cycle, people are on cruise control. But the combination of the abuses of power perpetrated by the Bush administration and this special election is creating a new voter." Kurt Conrad, 45, says his wife isn't even on the polling radar. She let her voter registration lapse and intends to register for the recall election just to vote for Huffington. "They're not polling all likely voters," Huffington assures Eye before racing off to an event in L.A. "They're not my voters." Huffington certainly has voters. Hers are even the good kind, the ones who put their money where their mouths are more often. (She's received twice as many contributions as the next top-contribution-getter in the race.) Only, her supporters cough up smaller wads than Bustamante's, Davis' and Schwarzenegger's.

File Photo

Schwarzenegger, who McEnery endorsed (kind of), and Gonzales, who he did not.

Kiss of Tom

Idiosyncratic, independent Democrat Tom McEnery has jumped on the Arnold Schwarzenegger bandwagon (which is stalled outside the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals along with the stump-mobiles of 133 other Davis-replacing candidates). The actor/bodybuilder swept through town last week for an education briefing at the San Jose Marriott. A positive word from the former San Jose mayor, whom polls continue to peg as a popular guy (even more popular than the current mayor, if you can believe that), should be a good thing. But history tells a different story. "An endorsement from McEnery is the kiss of death," says one Eye snitch. McEnery has backed such losers as Bill Bradley over Al Gore for president, Pat Dando over Ron Gonzales for mayor, Tony West over both Cindy Chavez for City Council and Manny Diaz for state Assembly and himself over Zoe Lofgren for Congress. When Eye called to check, McEnery was a little fuzzy on whether he gave Schwarzenegger his official backing.

He definitely plans to vote for the Terminator but denies formally endorsing him. McEnery admits, however, that "it's the right time in California's history for Arnold to clean house," which is what Eye's snitch heard McEnery say last week. "Sounds like something I might have said," McEnery says. Regardless of the specifics, modest McEnery says he doesn't care if his picks win or lose, and claims his legacy lies in having basically built San Jose. He takes credit for the arena, the convention center, the Tech Museum, 200 acres of parkland and six libraries, among other things. "If people who I endorse lose, that doesn't particularly bother me," he says. "What bothers me more is endorsing people who are no good just because I know they're going to win." Incidentally, a few of McEnery's dogs have won--City Councilmember David Cortese, for instance, had McEnery's backing, as did the successful 2000 parks bond and President Bill Clinton. But, Eye also notes, McEnery is part owner of the Sharks.

Speech Rap

Sept. 11 of this year didn't bode well for a so-called terrorist in a federal San Jose courtroom. Cameron Moore (or "crack_smoking_jesus" as he liked to be called on the Internet) received six months of home detention, four years of probation and an order to pay a still-undetermined amount of restitution to his victims. ... Readers of these pages may remember the twisted saga of Mary Day, Michelangelo Delfino, Varian Associates and, of course, the ostensible terrorist himself, Moore ("InterNot Free Speech," March 27, "Geek on Trial," June 12). Day and Delfino were once employees at Varian Associates in Palo Alto (now Varian Semiconductor and Varian Medical Systems). After Delfino was fired (and Day subsequently quit), due to some unusual accusations made by a top Varian employee, the two, a common-law couple, launched an Internet-based assault against employees at their former company. Ultimately, they lost a jury verdict for posting disparaging and sometimes ludicrous remarks against the company and its employees on the Internet. The case, considered one that could set legal precedents for free speech on the Internet, is set for appeal later this year. ... Meanwhile, Moore, an Agilent employee from Colorado who Delfino and Day allege has connections to another top Varian employee, was caught by the feds posting threatening emails to the two disillusioned employees. (This was a step above Delfino and Day's merely disparaging postings.) Moore was finally sentenced last Wednesday (again, on Sept. 11, to the delight of both Delfino and Day) for posting such messages as "Mikey is going to DIE real soon," and "you'll never know when the hammer is coming down on YOU." Day reflects on the sentencing. "It was very quiet," she tells Eye. "I think they were all kind of surprised that the judge came down very hard."

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From the September 18-24, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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