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Sure Shot: Jail guards union president Richard Abbate accidentally shot himself while off duty 13 years ago. Abbate's union is lobbying to be able to carry guns off the clock.

Disarmed and Dangerous

Ever since an unfavorable court decision earlier this year, local correctional officers' union president Richard Abbate has led the charge to reclassify jail guards as peace officers who can carry guns off-duty. This week that effort reached new heights when the union launched its estimated $300,000 "Save Our Peace Officers" campaign with ads on KNTV-11. The ads wisely neglect to mention union leaders' controversial desire to carry guns off the clock, instead emphasizing public safety. What the ads also don't mention is the fact that Abbate accidentally shot himself off-duty 13 years ago while working as a detective for the Honolulu Police Department. According to a March 8, 1984, clip from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Abbate's gun accidentally went off as he was getting out of his car at a local shopping center. He was taken to a hospital and treated for a bullet wound to his inner thigh, the news report says. When contacted by Eye, Abbate refused to talk about the incident. As part of their big media campaign, union officials argue that jail guards need peace-officer status to search for illegal drugs and make arrests in the jails. Those are good points, but covered in a bill carried by state Sen. John Vasconcellos which allowed them to do those things--on the job, Vasco's office informs Eye. The bill disappeared because, to the chagrin of Abbate and union leaders, Vasco didn't want to allow jail guards to carry guns off-duty. The union's latest ad campaign probably won't do much to persuade the irascible Vasco. Abbate, who is often shooting off his mouth (when not shooting off a piece of thigh), once called Vasco "spineless," an insult the grumpy chairman of the criminal procedures committee is unlikely to forget.

Team Dismantling

It was considered a given by almost all insiders that John Fairbank would do the polling for Ron Gonzales in next year's mayoral race. That assumption was based largely on the fact that Fairbank served as Gonzales' pollster during the latter's days as a county supervisor. But the Gonzales camp has made it clear that they haven't chosen a pollster yet, and Gonzales-spinmeister Jude Barry was recently spotted by Eye at Eulipia talking to someone from Fairbank's competitor, Evans-McDonough Co. According to a source familiar with both Fairbank and Gonzales, the two men butted heads during the 1996 supervisorial contest between Pat Sausedo and Pete "Primo" McHugh. The Gonzales camp backed Sausedo, but Fairbank chose to work for McHugh. One hack who worked on Primo's campaign says that Fairbank was pressured heavily not to work for McHugh, though the source didn't know who applied the pressure. Gonzales, meanwhile, insists that "there's nothing to that story at all" and assures Eye that Fairbank will definitely be among those people he will consider hiring if he does run next year.

I'm the Mayor, and You're Not: Chevy Chase lookalike Tom McEnery is making campaign plans.

Subliminal Campaigning

OK, so the speculation is starting to get real old, but here are two more tales demonstrating that San Jose Sharks Vice Chairman Tom McEnery is getting more serious about running for mayor again: First, at a Sharks preseason game last week against the New York Rangers, the Arena's big video monitor exclaimed, "Welcome, Tom McEnery." Later in the evening, the screen showed famous celebrities, followed by look-alikes sitting in the crowd. Well, when the screen flashed the face of Chevy Chase, the look-alike in the crowd just happened to be the Macster himself, who grinned and waved. One insider at the game complains that the Sharks gave free publicity to a possible mayoral contender, not to mention one of their own employees. "I was repulsed," the insider groans. "When does a sports team welcome its own vice chairman to a game?" ... Second, the word is that the Macster has been meeting with his old campaign fundraisers to see if they'd back him next year. McEnery acknowledges that over the past few weeks he's had several meetings with some old hands in restaurants like Eulipia and Blake's. "I've met with a lot of friends, many of whom helped me in past campaigns and have given me a lot of encouragement," McEnery reveals, without naming names. A couple of the most likely suspects, Mac-watchers say, are developer Rich Cristina and attorney Phil DiNapoli. Cristina is out of town, but DiNapoli confirms he met with McEnery within the last three weeks and chatting about running for mayor. DiNapoli stresses that McEnery didn't solicit his support nor did the lawyer offer it. DiNapoli did, however, say that if McEnery does run he'd "strongly consider supporting" him.

Campaign Gems

Ever since being re-elected to the Assembly, Peninsula Democrat Lou Papan has been trading salvos with the do-gooders at the Proposition 103 Enforcement Project, an insurance industry watchdog headed by attorney Harvey Rosenfield. Rosenfield and his minions spent the summer unsuccessfully taunting Papan, a licensed insurance agent, to recuse himself from voting on insurance-related legislation. Papan thanked Rosenfield by pushing legislation (that was later defeated) limiting the hourly fees consumer lawyers like Rosenfield can collect in legal actions against insurance companies. In turn, Rosenfield colleague, Phil Roberto, responded with equal nobility recently, asking the Federal Elections Commission to investigate a $150 campaign contribution Papan received one year ago from a diamond and gem distributor from Vancouver, Canada. Roberto concedes that $150 is chump change. Nevertheless, it raises troubling questions like, "Why would a Canadian diamond distributor be interested in the campaign of a small-town California assemblyman?" Papan's hired political apologist, Cliff Statin, couldn't answer that one. He theorized that perhaps Lou met the Canadian gems-dealer in high school. The bottom line: Papan's returning the foreign coinage.

Bill, Where Is?

Gubernatorial wannabe Gray Davis is known for his dry, long-winded and dull public speaking style. But Davis dazzled Demo lawmakers at a recent closed-door meeting where he pounded the podium and apparently discovered voice inflection. Afterward, Senate prez Bill Lockyer congratulated Davis for his impressive showing. "Gray, that was the best speech I ever heard you make," Lockyer was heard to say. When a few of those present started chuckling, Lockyer assured Davis by taking a cheeky swipe at another gubernatorial hopeful, state Sen. John Vasconcellos, known for his fast and choppy speaking style. "No, no, no, I really mean it. That speech was so good, it was like Vasconcellos talking in complete sentences." Since then, Vasco has apparently taken to approaching Lockyer in the Capitol, asking, without waiting for an answer, "Where is?"

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From the July 10-16, 1997 issue of Metro.

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