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Gas, Grass, or Cash

With the minor business of electing a president dispensed with early in the evening, local election central delivered some good theater down at the county building, and of course, Eye was there. ... County voters showed tremendous enthusiasm for transit improvements, but were less eager to pay for the ride. Maybe they will mellow out about taxes after pot prescriptions make it into general circulation, helped along by nearly two-thirds of county voters who thought it was okay for terminally ill patients to inhale with their doctor's permission. ... In San Jose, voters liked the idea that a fancy new City Hall could be built without costing voters a cent. Next year, the authors of that measure plan to ask voters to approve a measure for a new mass transit system powered by winged-pigs, and to protect from frivolous lawsuits anyone selling shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. Pass that prescription, please.


It's so, Joe

It wasn't until until Wednesday morning, when the votes of more than 50 percent of the precincts had been counted, that former Palo Alto councilmember Joe Simitian could count on maintaining his early lead. Even if Joe had lost the race, the attorney-turned-pol had ensured himself a memorable evening. Fifteen minutes before the polls closed, he asked his longtime squeeze and campaign consultant, Mary Hughes of the San Francisco firm Staton, Hughes and Shafer, to tie the knot. (She agreed.) ... Jammed into the palatial-scale kitchen of a Palo Alto supporter, Simitian's fans hooped a hollered upon hearing the news, once for real and again for the TV cameras. ... Over in Koppel-town, the mood was noticeably subdued as fans held vigil in an office that looked like an elementary classroom. Dozens of red balloons adorned the sparsely-furnished office in of an unfinished shopping mall. A red-clad Koppel blamed her loss on Simitian's dirt-dishing. "Joe did four hit pieces. We did zero," Koppel said. Plus, she belabored, the media had unfairly favored Simitian in its coverage, to which Eye could only widen.


E for Effort

A trio of West Valley College kids heading to the electoral wake for Pat Sausedo, supervisorial candidate, explained that they volunteered for the campaign after she came to their politics class for a chat. Was it something about Sausedo's message that inspired them? Well, not exactly. "We need ten hours of community service to fulfill our academic requirements," one confided. "I'm a Republican; I just need the hours." Another young volunteer at the Hilton suite was asked why he helped Sausedo, not victorious opponent Pete McHugh. "Well, mostly my association for Ron Gonzalez," admitted the intern for Supervisor Gonzalez, who backed Sausedo. "Otherwise, I could have gone either way." After Eye moved away, the young man and a friend discussed what they should have said. ...Sausedo supporters dined on salmon and mussel canapés and downed Southern Comfort. Supporters of future supervisor McHugh ate fruit, yogurt and pretzels. "We spent all our money on the campaign," explained one volunteer as she scarfed.


Not Mellow

Rich Saratoga punished its council by electing the municipal equivalents of terrorists to their city council. Stan Bogosian and Jim Shaw had authored the most sadistic growth restriction measure ever passed, one that removed the council and planning commission's power to rezone property and handed it over to the voters. ... Even richer Monte Serenans humiliated their mayor by handing scofflaw John Steinbeck-house resident Joel Gambord a huge victory, which in puny Monte Sereno means 700 votes. Another council-hater, Gordon T. Knight, took the other open seat, sending Mayor Nancy Hobbs back to private life. ... While Saratogans and Serenans assassinated their leaders over taxes, big government and growth issues, Los Gatans decided to overlook the sins of two tax-and-spenders who faced a well-organized challenge from opponents. Jan Hutchins became the first African-American to be elected to the Los Gatos town council, at least as far as Eye can remember. Hutchins, who happens to oppose affirmative action, is a privileged, Yale-educated media celebrity who spent election day sunning himself in the islands, so this doesn't exactly qualify as a major advancement for the underprivileged. Hutchins campaigned in an egg-shaped vehicle, quoting philosophers, and refused to urge Los Gatans to vote for him or donate to his campaign, saying it was too thankless a job to beg for. Informed that he won with the race by a large margin, he demanded a recount. ... Reelected was the competent Linda Lubeck; enough said. ... Kittyville council badboy Steve Blanton's attempt to score a council putsch by electing two shrill council critics to office went down like the Hindenberg. A victory by Egon Jensen and Frank Jones would have given a Blanton-led threesome absolute control of the town's five-member government.


Name Premonition

Capitalizing on second-story name recognition, Elaine White Alquist beat her Republican opponent, Karin Dowdy, by a 25 percent margin for the 22nd Assembly District. Natural Law Party candidate Frank Strutner came in far behind with only about 4 percent of the vote. ... "This was not an insider's race. This was a race where we had good turnout and support for what many of us believe in," trumpeted Alquist, who spent much of her evening making such remarks at the County Registrar of Voters to watch the results tumble in. Once it became apparent she was the victor, the elated candidate joined the United Democratic Campaign Party at San Jose's Hyatt hotel. ... Too upset to comment, Dowdy would not speak with Metro. Instead, her campaign manager Alex Alanis explained that the defeated candidate was extremely disappointed with the media. ..."To put it mildly," said a somber Alanis "she is very disappointed in the press. Her confidence in the media is somewhat shattered."...A lack of endorsements sometimes does that.


Affirmative Reaction

There were no candlelight vigils, no processions and not even one fiery invocation of Cesar Chavez inside SEIU Local 1877 election night as Santa Clara County's "No on Proposition 209" squad solemnly watched the returns on television. The activists had expected the night to resemble a train wreck, but managed to find some treasures in the baggage strewn about the site. "We educated thousands of voters in this county," proferred attorney Gayle Tiller. "The conservative right should be scared," Gina Acebo advised, without a even a hint of irony. Fellow activist Rona Fernandez wore her exhaustion on her face. She had been door-handling "No on 209" leaflets since 5 in the morning-- that's 250,000 door-hangers and 120,000 phone calls since the campaign began, she said. Also present at the funeral was the durable San Jose activist and former businessman Paul Guerrero. "My family was here when this area was part of Mexico," he said. Guerrero will be listed as a plaintiff on the ACLU's lawsuit challenging Prop. 209 in the courts. "We believe we will get an injunction and appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court." Thus begins the seventh inning stretch of the ballot proposition game: the voters have spoken, now let the lawsuits begin.


Uughhh, the Macarena

Santa Clara County Democratic lever-pullers threw their obligatory election night affair in the Hyatt's classy "Mediterranean Room" beneath, of all things, the interminable beat of the Macarena. Steve Preminger played ringleader as the bigwigs breezed in, did their bit and breezed out. Susan Hammer and Zoe Lofgren spoke before Eye's bedtime. A smug John Vasconcellos was spotted at the party soon after the polls closed, and then was gone. "In '92 we were so surprised to actually bring a Democrat to the presidency," Preminger observed. "This year there was so much money spent-- I think people are dulled by the advertising." But hype hangover might be an understatement for the 15-plus members of the Stanford delegation. Bellied up to a table in the back of the meeting hall next to the bar, it didn't take Eye long to realize this was the party within the party. "We busted our asses," one sophomore political science major revealed while nursing a 40-ounce Mickey's under the table. "We're pretty mellow here," confirmed one junior public policy major between gulps of cerveza. Four indefatigable button-crossed, star-spangled Macarena dancers bopped alone around the conference room. "I guess we reached critical mass," commented lead dancer Muffet Brown, who's keeping her hopes up for a revival of the Demo party spirit on Inauguration Day. "There will be another party somewhere, and I'll be there."


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From the November 7-13, 1996 issue of Metro

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