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Politicos face-off in local races

Byron Sher Patrick Shannon
Sher-footed: Senate incumbent Byron Sher holds ground.
Party Punch: Reep-financed Senate candidate Patrick Shannon.

State Senator, District 11

Patrick Shannon (R) v. Byron Sher (D.)

Incumbent Byron Sher runs for the state Senate on a legacy of legislative integrity and environmentalism. Sher's record as an assemblyman, and as senator for the last eight months, reveals a conscientious thinker and an effective supporter of the environment, endorsed by the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters. He's been a leader in energy deregulation and in opposing attacks on environmental reforms. Sher also supports campaign finance reform, sensible Three Strikes legislation and smaller class sizes.

While his opponent, Patrick Shannon, also supports campaign finance reform, Shannon, who served as a policy and criminal justice adviser to Gov. Wilson, takes a "tougher"--and, we feel, politically expedient and unwise--stance when it comes to Three Strikes. And his special-election and current campaigns have featured the usual tawdry political fear mongering around crime. Sher, on the other hand, is opposed to capital punishment--and is one of the few politicians who has the courage to stand up for this politically unpopular conviction. We think Sher is seasoned, wise, reasonable and effective. And we didn't like Shannon's sneaky, last-minute hit pieces--mostly funded by Pete Wilson--in the March special election, either. We'd warn voters to be on the watch for a fresh round of hit pieces against Sher toward Election Day.

Metro recommends Sher for District 11 State Senate.

Elaine Alquist & Karin Dowdy
Taking Names: Elaine White Alquist (D) and Karin Dowdy (R) square off over the 22nd Assembly seat with strong party alliances.

22nd District Assembly Race

Elaine Alquist v. Karin Dowdy

Republican Karin Dowdy and Republican-turned-Democrat Elaine White Alquist are engaged in a match of accusations and credential flashing to win access to the 22nd Assembly District seat held for the past 30 years by John Vasconcellos.

Dowdy is not convinced that the district will remain in Democratic hands for a fourth decade. "This district is not nearly as liberal as some people want to think it is," she said.

Some pundits say there is little to distinguish between the two, but we think otherwise. Republican Dowdy supports the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), Three Strikes and state Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle. And while Alquist opposes this unholy trinity, it is unclear exactly what she favors, besides, of course, the big three: public education, crime prevention and economic development.

Dowdy, on the other hand, is not to be outdone on education. Having spent the past two years as a West Valley College trustee, she reminds voters that she's the candidate who has lived, taught and raised a family in this district for the past 30 years. She's the one who has a concrete plan for improving education, business and public safety. And she's definitely not the one who has accepted $1,200 in campaign contributions from Pacific Lumber Co., the firm that controls the Headwaters forest.

Alquist responds that she's lived in the area for 18 years and alone has worked on an elementary school board (Cupertino Union School District) setting K-12 education policy. She also cites her business experience. She worked as a finance analyst for Stanford University and started a small marketing research and consulting firm. She tries to downplay accusations that she's riding on hubby Al's coattails by openly claiming she has a lot of friends in the biz.

However, the two are undeniably similar in their postures on the big-picture issues. Both echo the other's stump speech, emphasizing education, crime prevention and economic development. But Dowdy seems to have a stronger, more detailed proposal. She's proposed an innovative plan to restructure K-12's districting policy to one that resembles the community college system. Alquist is simply repeating an adage we've all heard before: we need to better prepare kids for the workforce by funneling more resources into the schools and initiating competency tests. In the end, both are sandwiching issues between party platforms. Dowdy's proposals are meatier, but one more Republican in the Assembly could give Wilson the extra vote he needs for an agenda that favors prisons over schools and divisiveness over inclusiveness.

Metro recommends Elaine White Alquist for State Assembly.

Joe Simitian Barbara Koppel
Supe Yet?: Joe Simitian has racked up political endorsements.
The Why Files: Barbara Koppel doesn't explain her views.

Supervisor, 5th District (Palo Alto-Mtn. View)

Joe Simitian v. Barbara Koppel

It's hard to run a campaign with your feet stuck in cement. Ask Barbara Koppel, former Cupertino mayor, running for county supe against former Palo Alto mayor Joe Simitian. Koppel's campaign for supervisor has been plagued by charges of indiscretion and unethical behavior--including accepting more than the maximum contribution allowed from Hanson Industries, owners of Kaiser Cement and Kaiser Sand and Gravel. Koppel argues innocence of intent and charges bias on the county ethics commission. In fact, both candidates have been lobbing ethical mud balls at each other--and neither is squeaky clean. Koppel also has engaged in some questionable sleight of hand. In the March primary, she sent fliers depicting herself with such Democratic heavyweights as Al Gore. Simitian, however, is the registered Democrat with Gore's endorsement. Koppel is a Republican, and endorsed by local Republican groups and county law enforcement organizations.

At the least, Koppel's actions in this campaign and around Kaiser Cement show poor political judgment and bode ill for her handling of complex county issues. Simitian, on the other hand, is the swift Palo Alto homeboy with law and city planning degrees. Having also served as president on school boards and county associations, Simitian is better suited to handle the big issues a big county will deal with in 1997--including trimming a $1.9 billion budget by millions and financing assistance for those who may fall out of the unraveling federal safety net.

Simitian has a keen grasp of the issues, while Koppel sometimes seems to twist in the wind. Koppel, for example, gets mealy-mouthed on the domestic partners registry, which she calls "premature," but is unable, or unwilling, to clearly articulate why. Simitian supports the registry.

Perhaps most significantly, Simitian has the support of outgoing supe Dianne McKenna, all Palo Alto councilmembers and even three members of the Cupertino City Council, on which Koppel served. We believe Koppel would do an adequate job on the board, but Simitian would do better.

Metro recommends Simitian for District 5 Supervisor.

Pat Sausedo Pete McHugh
See What Develops: Pat Sausedo talks green in supervisor race.
Man From Milpitas: Mayor Pete McHugh looks for a promotion.

Supervisor, 3rd District

Pat Sausedo v. Pete McHugh

With more money and support from the political establishment, former San Jose Councilwoman Pat Sausedo still couldn't top Milpitas Mayor Pete McHugh in the primary, leading to a runoff.

McHugh is a big, round-faced Bostonian schooled in the firm handshake and the hearty laugh. He's popular in Milpitas, a town that's grown from butt of jokes to high-tech outpost and shopping mecca during his 20-year watch. McHugh enjoys wide support in the town's Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese communities, and the town has become well-integrated during the McHugh years. Residents say McHugh is a good listener and consensus-builder. His accounting and bookkeeping experience will service him well in overseeing the county's $2 billion budget.

Some city insiders have said he's not an assertive leader. The city has condoned high salaries for employees compared to other valley cities. Recently, as squabbles among city officials degenerated into open warfare over charges against the city manager of harassment, favoritism and free-spending, McHugh's council responded by overseeing endless, expensive investigations that resolved little.

Sausedo is equally asleep at the switch when it comes to holding bureaucrats accountable. As a councilmember, she championed an ineffective and expensive Office of Economic Development, organized junkets to France on the city tab and smiled upon a string of mismanaged downtown projects characterized by cost overruns. When she left office, she opened a consulting practice and cashed checks from developers whose projects she approved in her council district while in office. Developers are now the largest interest group contributing to her campaign. It's worth noting, though, that while she was on the county Planning Commission Sausedo supported the hillside planning policy, the trails policy and the greenline initiative to create a development buffer around the city. We also like her plan to make Project Crackdown a countywide program.

Many Milpitas and Sunnyvale residents favor McHugh for the sake of geographical balance on the board. If Sausedo is elected, three of the board's five members would be former members of the San Jose City Council. Seems a little lopsided to us.

Metro endorses Pete McHugh for Supervisor, District 3.

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From the October 31-November 6, 1996 issue of Metro

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