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State Senate, District 13 (San Jose to Palo Alto)
John Vasconcellos

After more than 30 years in the state Legislature, this is Vasco's final tour of duty. He faces only token opposition. We've bickered with him in the past, but who hasn't traded salvos with him at some point during his long, esteemed career in public service?

You might think Vasconcellos would be happy with a Democratic governor, but he isn't. In fact, the liberal senator said during his campaign kickoff that working "with" Gray Davis isn't much different from working with his Republican predecessor, Pete Wilson.

He has been openly critical of Davis' education policies. And guess what? Next year, Vasco will take over as chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Despite Vasconcellos' occasionally combative relationship with the governor, we still think that as chair of the education committee, the senator can get things done for schools around the state and in the valley.

State Senate, District 11 (West Valley, Peninsula)
Byron Sher

Originally, Republican leaders hoped Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) would take on incumbent Democrat Byron Sher. But Cunneen opted to run for Congress instead, and party leaders scrambled to find another warm body to vie for the Senate seat. Ultimately, they persuaded Gloria Hom, chair of the economics department at Mission College, to give it a go.

Lacking Cunneen's name ID, Hom could only muster 39 percent of the vote in the open primary, compared to Sher's 57 percent. As a result of Hom's lackluster primary performance, Republican Party money-masters appear to have abandoned her this time. The California Journal now describes this as a "safe Democratic" seat. Which is fine by us, since we consider Sher--a former Stanford law professor--one of the Legislature's smartest members.

While most people know Sher as an environmentalist--he led the fight in the Senate to protect Headwaters Forest--we have been more impressed by his recent legislative efforts to strengthen the California Public Records Act. Gov. Davis unfortunately vetoed two Sher bills that proposed fining government agencies that improperly withhold public documents.

Despite the setbacks, we expect Sher to continue championing government openness in his second and final Senate term.

Assembly District 21 (North County, Peninsula)
Joe Simitian

In all the years we have covered Supervisor Joe Simitian, we have never heard him use crutch words like "uhhh" or "you know" while speaking. Simitian, a lawyer with a master's degree in planning, is clearly one of the valley's brightest and most articulate public officials. He's also among the most arrogant, critics say and supporters concede. Nonetheless, he'll make a fine addition to the Legislature, one who can talk in complete sentences.

Assembly District 22 (Santa Clara, Sunnyvale)
Elaine Alquist

Should all go according to plan, this will be Alquist's third and final two-year term in the Assembly. Party leaders are grooming her for the state Senate, where her husband, retired state Sen. Al Alquist, finished his long legislative career.

Alquist faces only token opposition and while she may not be the valley's most effective lawmaker, she hasn't done anything so egregious that she should be tossed out of office.

Assembly District 23 (San Jose)
No Endorsement

Given the heavy Democratic registration in this district, the real race took place in the primary between San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz and Assistant Attorney General Tony West. Diaz prevailed then, and will undoubtedly prevail in November against GOP nominee Tom Askeland and Libertarian Dana Albrecht.

Too bad. We were frankly disappointed when West, clearly the superior candidate, lost to Diaz in March.

Diaz puzzles us. After getting dinged in his first City Council race for being a deadbeat dad, he later--while on the City Council, no less--got spanked by a judge for once again missing child support payments. He even had his City Council wages garnished for a time. When asked by a reporter about the circumstances surrounding those missed payments, Diaz replied evasively, "I don't have that document in front of me. I can't answer that right now."

We suggest voters give Diaz this answer Nov. 7: No, thank you.

Assembly District 24 (West Valley)
Rebecca Cohn

Rebecca Who? That's what people were saying just a year ago. Now, the Saratoga Democrat has a legitimate chance of replacing Republican Jim Cunneen, who is running for Congress, as the 24th Assembly District's next representative.

Cohn's got guts. She was the only Democrat brave enough to announce her candidacy when everyone thought popular San Jose City Councilwoman Pat Dando, a Republican, was going to run for the seat.

When Dando backed out, Cohn managed to dissuade other "top tier" Democrats--i.e., those already holding elected office--from joining the race.

This week, Gov. Gray Davis will headline a $2,500-a-head fundraiser for Cohn, the newcomer-cum-party-darling.

We think her connection to the state's top leaders will prove invaluable to her district, which includes Los Gatos, Saratoga, Almaden Valley, Campbell and Cupertino.

Cohn's Republican opponent, Monte Sereno Mayor Sue Jackson, just doesn't boast as impressive a Rolodex, even if she does have similar positions on abortion and transportation. Jackson has even burned bridges inside her own party after attacking Los Gatos Mayor Steve Blanton in the primary. Blanton still refuses to endorse her.

Go with Cohn. You may not have heard a lot about her yet, but a few years from now we think you'll have heard plenty.

Assembly District 28 (South Santa Clara County)
Simon Salinas

This is an easy one. Vote Simon Salinas. Republican agribusinessman Jeff Denham is just a tad too conservative for our taste. He has received high marks from right-wing organizations like the Pro-Life Council and Gun Owners of California. Enough said.

Supervisor, District 5 (North County)
Dolly Sandoval

This is your typical South Bay, Land of Consensus race. Both candidates--Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss and Foothill-DeAnza College trustee Dolly Sandoval--hold very similar positions on the big issues. Both support Measure A, the transit tax measure. Both think Stanford should designate a significant chunk of land as open space. Both say they want to protect the hillsides from development.

What distinguishes the candidates from each other is who's backing them.

Sandoval's getting a lift from the South Bay Labor Council.

Kniss, formerly a communications manager at Sun Microsystems, is supported by high-tech business tycoons like Sun leader Scott McNealy and Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina. Peninsula-based developers George Marcus and Jim Baer have also raised money for Kniss.

In the primary, we worried that Sandoval's labor ties would prevent her from standing up to almighty SEIU Local 715 at contract time. But interestingly enough, the California State Employees Association--which represents hundreds of employees in Sandoval's school district--has endorsed Kniss. CSEA leaders told Sandoval they objected to Sandoval voting to fire janitors caught boozing and sleeping on the job a few years ago.

A primary function of county government is to serve the poor--the welfare moms, foster kids and homeless. Sandoval, an algebra teacher at Los Gatos High School with a blue-collar upbringing, is more in touch with the valley's working class. Kniss, who is married to an Agilent executive, circulates among Palo Alto's millionaire crowd.

We think Kniss would be a competent and capable supervisor. We just think Sandoval would be better.

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From the October 26-November 1, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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