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[whitespace] Shoot 'em up: Sheriff candidate Ruben Diaz and his opponent aren't pulling any punches in the last two weeks before the election.

Dubious Dueling

With two weeks left until the election, the sheriff's race is turning into a regular shootout. This week Laurie Smith started running attack ads accusing her adversary, Ruben Diaz, of taking money from card club interests, i.e. $1,000 from two Bumb family patriarchs. In reality, the Bay 101 and Garden City card clubs are under the jurisdiction of the city of San Jose's police department, not the sheriff. But it's close enough for political work and Diaz is returning the money with his tail between his legs. Featured in the ad is Capt. Bob Wilson. The scuttlebutt going around the department is that Smith promised him a job as undersheriff in exchange for his support. In fact, Sgt. Jose Salcido, a candidate in the primary, explicitly suggests as much in an internal Aug. 3 memo regarding Wilson's questioning of Salcido's job performance: "It is common knowledge that you are supporting Assistant Sheriff Laurie Smith for Sheriff and the rumors are strong that you are seriously being considered as the next Undersheriff if she is elected." Smith's campaign shill, Rich Robinson, insists that his candidate promised no one, including Wilson, a promotion. "Bob is retiring in May," Robinson adds. ... Meanwhile, the Diaz campaign is stewing about Smith soliciting and accepting donations above $500, including a $2,500 contribution from the California Highway Patrol PAC. (Campaign sources also say that Smith tried to get the Deputy Sheriffs' Association to pony up $5,000.) Both Diaz and Smith previously signed official forms promising to "voluntarily" abide by a $500-per-person contribution limit, according to Diaz campaign attorney Ash Pirayou. Readers should know that Robinson himself is a budding lawyer who only half-jokingly boasts that he advises all his clients to ignore campaign laws because they are unconstitutional. In this case, Robinson claims everything Smith has done is perfectly legal. "We're not apologizing for anything," Robinson sniffs. "We need to get our message out to voters."

Uneasy Truce

Earlier in the year, Milpitas Vice Mayor Bob Livengood raised eyebrows when he declared support for Mayor Henry Manayan's re-election. Two years ago, Livengood backed Jim Lawson against Manayan and their relationship seemed to go downhill from there. In spite of their public reconciliation, the two pols aren't exactly best chums now. In fact, they are on opposing sides when it comes to this year's hot election battles. For instance, they have clashed over Measure Z, the hillside protection initiative: Manayan opposes it; Livengood is all for it. The more subtle power struggle is in the City Council race, where Livengood is backing Milpitas school trustee Althea Polanski, while Manayan is lending his name to Planning Commissioner Joe Esteves. It promises to be a close race that could tip the scales of power toward either Livengood or Manayan. Esteves can boast something Polanski can't: the unanimous support of her school board colleagues. All four have endorsed Esteves. Only one, Bill Foulk, has given Polanski a thumbs-up. But Foulk doesn't seem too discriminating. Three council candidates list him as a supporter, even though only two seats are up for grabs. Better check that 'rithmetic, Bill.

Free Billy

In keeping with his "Cowboy in the Capital" shtick, Assemblyman Pete Frusetta wears a big Stetson hat and a silk bandanna around his neck in. He also likes to drop the name of his horse, Billy, every now and then to the voting public. Next to Mr. Ed, Billy is the horse with the most TV exposure in the 28th Assembly District. He was featured prominently in a political ad a couple of years back in which Frusetta covers Billy's ears so he won't hear all the nasty things being said about his master. More recently, during Frusetta's current re-election bid, the assemblyman has made hay of the fact that his opponent, Salinas Mayor Alan Styles, insulted Billy in a campaign hit piece. "It contained a photo ... that makes fun of my horse," Frusetta scribbled in his newsletter earlier this year. "The vicious attack doesn't bother me but it sure made old Billy mad." Pete must have learned of Billy's displeasure during one of his visiting days. See, Billy doesn't belong to Frusetta but to a ranch in San Benito County, concedes campaign manager Jeannie Glass. "It's one of the horses Pete rides," Glass reveals. Apparently, Frusetta isn't a one-horse man. The horse he rides in a new commercial at the capitol isn't Billy either, but some other rent-a-horse the campaign rustled up.

Check Yourself

Merc managing editor Jerry Ceppos set a dubious precedent last month when a story written about the Nasdaq stock market was submitted to Nasdaq officials for a read through before the story was published, a practice that set some longtime Merc reporters to gnashing their teeth. Ceppos, however, was apparently so pleased with the outcome, he told the American Journalism Review this month that he plans to expand the practice at the paper. "I'm so impressed with how much we got out of the reviews by everybody that I'm going to fax drafts of my occasional columns to people I'm writing about in the future." The renegade Ceppos seems to be seizing upon the latest fad in journalism practiced ad nauseam in Brill's Content. In that glossy, 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt responded to a story about the TV newsmagazine in print--in the same issue the story was published! Eye, long a fan of all things edgy, is happy to report that at 2pm Tuesday the following item was sent to a chattering fax inside the Mercury News mother ship. "In light of the new standard of press ethics set by Merc boss Jerry Ceppos, Eye has decided to give Mr. Ceppos the opportunity to review this segment before it goes to print ..." As of press time, no response.

Adios, Amigo

Political operative Roger Lee likes to brag that he's elected San Jose's past three mayors. This year, however, Lee has all but disappeared from the local campaign landscape, spending most of his time inside the Beltway. Well, now it's official: Lee is making Washington, D.C., his permanent home, according to his business partner at Strategy Source, Greg Sellers. "He just decided to stay there rather than crossing the country every other week," Sellers reports. "Personally, I think it's a good idea. He's prospering in D.C. both personally and professionally." Lee is handling the firm's East Coast accounts, while Sellers is overseeing business here on the left coast. Sellers assures Eye that there's no animus between him and Lee, despite their new long-distance business arrangement. However, Sellers acknowledges that Strategy Source will be "reassessing" its situation after the election, something he insists is routine in the consulting biz.

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From the October 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro.

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