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The Ronster Mash

[whitespace] Ron Gonzales
Photos by Dan Pulcrano

Gonzales takes San Jose in photo finish

The once-mighty political machine of ex-Mayor Tom McEnery died with a whimper Tuesday night as allies Pat Dando and Tony West lost their bids for the two jobs that the Tomster once held: mayor of San Jose and District 3 councilperson. Mayoral victor Ron Gonzales was still hugging and mugging with supporters and basking in the glow of ear-to-ear smiles and TV lights as the Dando camp packed it in at downtown’s Palermo restaurant, leaving behind drained Chianti bottles and scraps of penne on plates smeared with marinara sauce. Only TV technicians stayed behind to dissemble light stands.

Dando supporters cleared out before 1am, after drinking Chianti and polishing off their pasta.

Despite his Gillette-thin victory, the ever-thoughtful Ronster declared the race his before the last ballots were counted so his fans could hit the sacks before Cinderella curfew. "We did it, man!" he informed one supporter, as a DJ spun festive tunes by Sheryl Crow, Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray. Campaign manager Leslee Hamilton said the victory speech’s timing depended on when ballots from Dando’s council district were counted. "We were trying to figure out if Almaden Valley had come in," she said. (It had.) Despite the predicted Gonzales victory, the Dando camp managed to maintain a sense of humor. Dando handler Eric Schoenauer had called Hamilton around 9 that morning to say, "I’m calling to concede."

Eye accosted one city hall wag at the bar and demanded that he buy us a Coke, but instead got a Pepsi and some not-for-attribution punditry. "Who’s Pat going to talk to now on the council?" our deep throat volunteered, noting that Dando ally David Pandori would no longer be seated on the dais and Linda Lezotte edged out Chuck Gillingham for the District 1 seat.

Ron Gonzales
Gonzales celebrated Tuesday past midnight
at the Hyatt hotel in North San Jose.

Reflecting on the loss of business-backed federale Tony West to union firebrand Cindy Chavez, politically smooth shopping center developer Chester Wang commented that West was "overqualified," noting, "Where else do you find a candidate who went to Bellarmine, Stanford, Harvard?" Then he attempted to retract the comment, perhaps remembering that he might have to lobby the other ten members to approve his next development. Sorry, too late, Chester.

Speaking of developers, one who won’t be planting many more palm trees is Redevelopment’s Frank Taylor, who can start cleaning out his credenza after 18 years now that his former executive assistant (Dando) failed to block Gonzales’ elevator ride to the sixth floor, despite some behind the scenes politicking on Dando’s behalf by Lord Taylor & Co. Taylor will take out his aggressions this month by leveling the perfectly good Pestena Building at First and San Carlos, which some consider one of downtown’s best examples of mid-century architecture but which Taylor considers in the way of a future project. Which future project? Well, there is none yet, but it’s still in the way.

Marj Kabbaz
Gonzales partisan Marj Kabbaz displays
her campaign couture.

The more Redevelopment-friendly West faced the business end of an 11th-hour Chavez camp hit mailer that disingenuously branded West as a Republican in Democrat’s clothes because he had hooked into a mostly Republican slate mailer. Chavez also benefited from county labor’s single-minded focus on the District 3 race, which left candidates in other races grousing that they couldn’t corral their share of union bucks.

Dando was the other candidate to crank up the Slime-o-tron, unleashing attack mail that the Gonzales camp contended misrepresented numerous facts.


More photos of San Jose's Election '98.


Over at the County building, one big shot who stayed out of the mayoral fray described the race as a yawner. "Did you hear any issues?" the pol rhetorically asked. "Did you hear any ideas?" Sticking to safe themes such as their brave support for traffic relief, public safety and education, both Dando and Gonzales managed to mislead the media pack into thinking that they were the same candidate. From TV stations to the daily press, the reportorial lemmings failed to scratch any deeper than the campaign talking points, declaring in unison that there were no major differences between the candidates. The fuzzed, superficial coverage and unimaginative mayoral campaigns came short of electrifying the electorate, and had it not been for public disgust with D.C.’s Republican peeping Toms, Pat Dando would be the mayor-elect.

While declaring Susan Hammer "The best mayor San Jose ever had," (ouch, Tom), Gonzales was already laying the groundwork for a massive overhaul of the billion-plus dollar a year corporation that Hammer has headed for most of a decade, a project Dando would have been less inclined to tackle.

Not everyone is as naïve as our mainstream colleagues in believing that the candidates were ideological soulmates. Just ask Frank Taylor.
--Public Eye

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Web extra to the November 4-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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