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[whitespace] The Ronster Mash

The once-mighty political machine of ex-Mayor Tom McEnery ended with a garlic burp Tuesday night as allies Pat Dando and Tony West failed to clinch 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 TV lights as the Dando camp packed it in at downtown's Palermo Restaurant, leaving behind drained Chianti bottles and scraps of penne in marinara sauce. ... Despite his Gillette-thin victory, the ever-thoughtful Ronster declared the race won before the last ballots were counted so fans could hit the hay 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. Despite the long-predicted Gonzales victory, the Dando camp managed to maintain a sense of humor. Dando handler Erik Schoenauer had phoned Gonzo HQ around 9am Election Day to say, "I'm calling to concede." ... Late into the ballotfest, Eye accosted one city hall wag at the bar and got 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. ... Aside from McEnery, the evening's other big loser was Redevelopment's Frank Taylor, who can start cleaning out his credenza after 18 years, now that his former exec assistant (Dando) failed to block Gonzales' elevator ride to the sixth floor. ... 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 easy themes such as traffic relief, public safety and education, both Dando and Gonzales managed to mislead reportorial lemmings from television and the daily press into thinking that they were ideological soulmates. Had it not been for public disgust with D.C.'s Republican peeping Kens, Dando could well have been mayor-elect.... Meanwhile, declaring the rumored future leader of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, Susan Hammer, "the best mayor San Jose ever had" (ouch, Tom), Gonzales was already laying the groundwork for a massive overhaul of the billion-dollar-a-year corporation that Hammer has headed for most of a decade, a project Dando would have been less inclined to tackle....


Some photos of San Jose's Election '98.

More about Ron Gonzales and the '98 election.


West Goes South

Reflecting on the apparent loss of business-backed federale Tony West to union firebrand Cindy Chavez, shopping center magnate Chester Wang commented that West was "overqualified," noting, "Where else do you find a candidate who went to Bellarmine, Stanford and Harvard?" Then he attempted to retract the comment, perhaps remembering that he might have to lobby the other 10 members to approve his next development. Sorry, too late, Chester.... Inside West's storefront headquarters on Second Street, hangers-on like Tommy Fulcher--who stayed until the bitter end--watched Chavez's lead grow in the pale blue light of a laptop computer. By 10pm, it was clear that West's numbers weren't going to get much better. David Pandori and Jim Tomaino took the opportunity to traipse up the street to Pat Dando's election night eulogy. Tom McEnery poked his head in on West, too, but sensing a party about to turn sour, turned around and headed up the street to Dando's....Chavez and friends spent the evening at her Sixth Street Victorian, sipping Crystal Geyser, red wine and Miller Genuine Draft in the can. Ms. Cindy restlessly mingled and occasionally mugged for the cameras, while her guests huddled around the TV set to watch Maggi and Doug relay the latest numbers. When victory seemed certain, a few partisans left the Chavez home to join Assemblyman Mike Honda in a karaoke celebration at Mexico Lindo....Chavez's narrow 200-vote edge--which remains tenuous until all the absentee ballots are counted--was greatly aided by her pals in labor, who financed an 11th-hour hit piece that disingenuously branded West as a Republican in Democrat's clothes because he had hooked into a mostly Reep 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.

Agony of Defeat

Despite losing the Democratic endorsement in the last week of the sheriff's race, Ruben Diaz was still a cordially invited guest at the Dems Election-Night shindig at the Labor Temple. Before the returns came in, labor mama Amy Dean generously introduced Diaz as "the next sheriff of Santa Clara County," which inspired a few knowing smirks around the room. Few gave Diaz much of a chance after his campaign disintegrated in the final two weeks. One attendee sighed, "It's too bad. I consider Ruben a friend. He's a good police officer; he's just a bad campaigner."... The Diaz campaign was a veritable orgy of screw-ups, taking a nose-dive when he was accused of taking two $500 contributions from members of the Bumb family, San Jose's gaming clan, and falsely claiming the endorsement of lady cops... Friends of Diaz privately complained about the advice he was getting from his campaign manager, Ed Vasquez, who seemed to be in over his head. Earlier in the week Vasquez bragged that Diaz would be running ads during the Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Niners, surely to be viewed by countless Bay Area voters. One problem: The Packers and Niners played on Sunday.... Meanwhile, Smith ran a nearly flawless campaign. Despite being vastly outspent, the new she-riff leveraged her funds well, getting lots of free media, thanks to Diaz's bumbling. The Smith entourage--a fine collection of cowboy hats and bottle blondes--celebrated their good fortune at Willow Glen's Three Flames Restaurant. The good ol' boys showed up en masse, including jail guard impresario Richard Abbate, who stood around nodding sagely and saying little, to his credit. Smith herself maintained a poker face (no sweat for a Tahoe regular) throughout the evening, preferring to let hubby Brannan maniacally talk into his cell phone as the count trickled in. By the end, she was cruising to a 20-point victory. Smith becomes the first female sheriff in Santa Clara County, though she continues the county's tradition of electing white Republicans to be top cop.

Boxed In

When Mr. Leather San Francisco and Donna Sachet, a 6-foot-plus man in a red dress and glittering tiara, showed up at Barbara Boxer's victory party, more than a few scrubbed-faced Democratic volunteers turned their heads. The two came to show their appreciation for Boxer's support of gay issues. Naturally they made their way to the center of the narrow room directly facing the stage where the tiara could glitter best in the light of the 20 TV cameras arranged for the event. The Boxer box, used to help the vertically challenged candidate reach the microphone, was neatly tucked away behind the podium. The carpeted lift came in handy not only for the victorious candidate, but for her equally altitude-bereft son, Doug, who warmed the crowd up for mom. Not even the Fairmont's $6 Budweisers and utter lack of finger food could quell the excitement in the packed room as Boxer took the stage. By the time the senator exalted the virtues of being the people's candidate (and winning), young and old Dems alike were crushed against each other. Though Boxer's speech covered nearly all of her issues, poor Matt Fong didn't even get a mention. Boxer was joined onstage by San Francisco Supervisors Barbara Kaufman and Michael Yaki. State Senator John Burton, who calls the shots for the foggy city's Democratic Party, got a special thanks. Missing in action was San Francisco's stylish mayor, Willie Brown. Too bad, he and Ms. Sachet would have made quite a couple.

Back At Home

While TV cameras followed bigger candidates at balloon-festooned campaign parties, San Jose's new District 1 Council gal, Linda LeZotte, buzzed between the living room and kitchen of her west side home, stabbing meatballs and chatting with a small group of friends and family. Her most notable visitor, Mayor Susan Hammer, left by 10pm. Throughout the night LeZotte scrawled numbers on a dry erase board, causing her crew to raise their arms and cheer. Spectators suspected all was well for LeZotte from the beginning of the evening, when she took an early lead among absentee voters, who tend to be more conservative and more likely to cast a vote for retiring sheriff Chuck Gillingham. But the badged bear, as he likes to call himself, turned out to be a paper tiger. Eye hears that Chuckles is refusing to hang up his holsters until the last vote is counted, but couldn't confirm the goodly sheriff's stubborn stance, since he was letting his answering machine handle questions Wednesday morning.

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From the November 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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