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[whitespace] Bill Clinton

Stumping Grounds

Clinton rides political winds in Willow Glen

By Dan Pulcrano

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton took a break from the congressional fundraising circuit Saturday to do what many Willow Glen residents enjoy doing on a hot fall afternoon--head to Lincoln Avenue to shop, toss down a cool drink and engage in a little palabadaba with the locals.

The unscheduled whistle-stop to the small San Jose burg--once a separate city and now one of San Jose's oldest neighborhood business districts--caught most Glenites by surprise. Fremont businessman Bill Boyce was sitting in Le Boulanger Bakery sipping coffee with his wife Donna around 4pm when police officers entered the bakery and sealed off the exits. "I thought it was some kind of crime scene," Boyce says. "Then I saw a motorcade and thought to myself, 'that sure looks like the president's car.'"

Cathy Adkins, owner of Willow Glen Books, said she "had no idea" that the leader of the free world was about to become her next customer. "All of a sudden, people with suits started showing up," the bespectacled independent bookstore owner recalled. "There were helicopters, motorcycles, photographers."

The suits informed her that Clinton wanted to do a little browsing in the bookstore. Clinton bought three books: Gone for Soldiers: A Novel of the Mexican War by Jeff Shaara, The Bear and the Dragon (a Tom Clancy mystery) and Spirit Matters, by San Francisco Rabbi Michael Lerner, the subject of last week's Metro cover story.

Adkins, for her part, gave the commander-in-chief some books of her own choosing, including Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry, a thriller about a Native American woman who marries an abusive con artist, Saving the Soul of Medicine by Margaret Mahoney, and a biography of Franklin Roosevelt, penned by Adkins' brother in law Patrick Maney. Clinton presented a credit card for the purchase, which came to $85.35.

The president then crossed Lincoln Avenue, shaking hands along the way. He entered Le Boulanger and asked to use the restroom and for something cool to drink, according to assistant manager Dennis McHugh, who presented him with a loaf of sourdough bread.

The president got an Odwalla lemonade and, according to McHugh, "said 'hi' to everybody" and shook hands and posed for photos.

"He really impressed me," commented McHugh. "He changed my opinion of him. I didn't vote for him in the last election."

Clinton also posed for photos in front of Details clothing store. Bernie Levine and owner Robyn Levine shook Clinton's hand, and ran into the store to get a Willow Glen T-shirt as a souvenir, but the president was gone before he could present it to him.

"Actually, the Secret Service wouldn't let us give it to him," explains Robyn. "We wanted him to have a 95125 shirt. Clinton visited Willow Glen with Democratic congressional hopeful Mike Honda, following a fundraiser at the Almaden Valley home of high-tech entrepreneur Jesse Singh. (See related story in Public Eye, p. 16) According to Honda campaign manager Jennifer Van der Heide, the Willow Glen stop was Honda's suggestion.

Clinton was in town to help raise money for Honda's race against fellow assemblyman Jim Cunneen. Both are seeking the congressional seat being vacated by Tom Campbell, who is running for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein.

The president also met up with U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta--a former mayor of San Jose who also served as congressman from the district Honda seeks to represent.

"This is a happening place, here in Willow Glen," shop owner Levine said of the tony burg a few miles southwest of downtown. "I feel like we're a sign that the economy is doing well. and people are doing well in the area." She described the president as taller and leaner than she expected and says he seemed to have the ability to make eye contact with everyone in the crowd. "He has quite impressive blue eyes and he looks you right in the eye when he greets you," she said. She overheard one well-wisher tell the president how much better he looked than in his photos, to which he responded, "Well, thank you very much!"

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From the September 28-October 4, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 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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