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[whitespace] Larry Stone, Cindy Chavez
Larry Stone (top), who hasn't drawn an opponent, curses his luck. A similarly unopposed Cindy Chavez (right) used campaign cash to promote kids' safety on Halloween.

Public Eye

Blank Ballot

The polis of Silicon Valley is one big, happy place that's in love with its public officials. What else can explain the fact that all three countywide elected officials--Sheriff LAURIE SMITH, Assessor LARRY STONE and District Attorney GEORGE KENNEDY--will be unchallenged on the March ballot? With the Dec. 7 filing date less than a month away, serious challengers should have spoken up by now, though that doesn't necessarily rule out any last minute surprises. The reaction among incumbents ranges from smug to snarly . . . Smith hasn't heard of anyone who might be gearing up to challenge her--something she thinks would be a first for a sheriff's race since she joined the department in 1973. Opponent or not, Smith has already raised more than $100,000. "I started raising money the day I took office," Smith says. "I had a $50,000 campaign debt and I planned to run again." . . . Tax man Stone, meanwhile, says he'd rather have a contest than a free ride. "If that happened to me it would be a real bummer," grumbles Stone, who says he loves the thrill of the race. "The last time it looked like nobody was going to run against me I offered to pay the filing fee of someone who would, but the county counsel informed me that it would be illegal." Stone says he lacks a challenger probably because it's always hard to beat an incumbent and hard to raise enough cash to reach out to the county's 850,000 registered voters. . . . Kennedy, on the other hand, shows a goose egg on his campaign finance statement, and proudly reports that he's going to pay the $1,782.59 filing fee himself if he's unopposed. Though he drew an easy in-house challenge last time, Kennedy speculates that he lacks a challenger probably because candidates must have specialized qualifications and because the job is a lot of work and doesn't really pay that much, for the legal world anyway. "Every day I get a little more encouraged," Kennedy allows. . . . If this keeps up, Smith, Stone and Kennedy could conceivably stay in office as long as they want--none is term-limited. And nobody seems to want their jobs.

Safety Campaign

Add San Jose's District 3 (downtown) Councilwoman CINDY CHAVEZ to the list of officeholders who, for the nonce, remain unchallenged on next year's ballot. As of the last reporting deadline, Chavez had raised $41,050 and only spent $3,730. But even though a challenger still hasn't emerged, Chavez tells Eye she wanted to make a strong showing out of the gate. So, without a challenger, what to do with all that dough? . . . Freed from the need to send out slick campaign pieces, Chavez, well, sent out a slick campaign piece. But this mailer instead promoted Halloween safety for kids. Chavez also used her campaign fund to buy hundreds of glow in the dark safety necklaces, which she arranged to have distributed to trick-or-treaters at several pickup spots in the district--including her own home on Sixth Street. . . . District 1 (west San Jose) Councilwoman LINDA LEZOTTE looks like she'll also get a pass next year, but she's raised less than $2,000 so far.

Jose Posadas UNINVITED GUEST: Brazen ex-council aide and mayoral wannabe Jose Posadas showed up at Gonzo's campaign kickoff.

David and Gonliath

Mayor RON GONZALES formally kicked off his campaign last week at a community center in Willow Glen, by briefly slipping his foot into his mouth. On a small stage packed with local bigwigs. Mayor Ron began his sermon by saying: "Some of you may wonder why we are even here tonight. It looks like we have no major opposition." Meanwhile Gonzo opponent and former council aide JOSE POSADAS was standing there, a few feet away. Talk about feeling like a nobody. Before the speech, while supporters milled around to the sound of a Buena Vista Social Club CD, several surprised attendees pestered Posadas with the same question: "What are you doing here?" Posadas, ever practical, said he just wanted to hear what the mayor had to say. . . . Gonzales used the event to unveil his campaign chairs: ex-Mayor SUSAN HAMMER, downtown Councilwoman CINDY CHAVEZ, beer baron MIKE FOX SR. and a secret mystery chair to be named later. Gonzales focused laserlike on the issues he's been running on for the last three years: neighborhoods, education, public safety, housing and transportation. . . . The next day, Posadas fired off a two-page email to local media, blasting Ron's pleasingly pleasant speech. "He focused only on those things that everybody can agree on as residents, like traffic calming and public safety." Portraying himself as a David taking on a Goliath "King Ron," the ex-Chavez aide pointed out that the mayor's announcement came on Nov. 1, the Day of the Dead in Latino culture, and hinted that it might be a precursor to his political future.

Sign Wave

San Jose District 7 candidate ED VOSS got a call from the city clerk's office a couple weeks ago, scolding him for getting his campaign signs up too early. Signs aren't allowed up until Nov. 13 (not that it stopped fellow candidate ALFREDO BENAVIDES, who put his up this summer). Voss tells Eye he just didn't know any better and won't do it again, but he didn't exactly order his supporters to take down existing signs on their own lawns. . . . Enter Voss opponent TERRY GREGORY, who lives around the corner from Voss and the offending signs. "The neighborhood out here is up in arms," alerts Gregory. "There's some pretty ticked off people, and several people have called the city but the city hasn't done anything." Gregory says the city was all over Benavides but hasn't noticed Voss's violation, though he wouldn't hint at what dots he's trying to connect. This made Eye wonder if Gregory might be suggesting that District 7 Councilman GEORGE SHIRAKAWA JR. played a role. . . . An Eye investigation--a couple phone calls, anyway--would appear to indicate otherwise. City Clerk PAT O'HEARN says she called Voss to explain the rules after getting some complaints, then referred the matter to the city attorney's office, which was supposed to turn it over to Code Enforcement, which usually takes the first step of firing off an ineffectual letter to the offender. But Acting Deputy Director of Code Enforcement MIKE HANNON says word never got to his department. "We didn't get a referral regarding a specific candidate, and I wasn't aware that [the signs] were up," Hannon says. . . . Since nobody's looking and the deadline is less than a week away, Eye's advice to Voss: Leave 'em up. Eye's advice to Gregory: Put 'em up. And to the city: Give it up.

Run From the Money

Last week Eye bumped into BETSY DOSS, a long rumored third candidate to succeed JOHN DIQUISTO in San Jose's District 7 Seat. Hoping for some kind of announcement, Eye pestered Doss, but only to find out that she recently decided not to run. "It was a financial thing. I can't take the salary cut," said Doss, who evidently makes more than a councilmember in her current job as an educational consultant for clients like San Jose Unified School District. Doss says she's endorsing Diquisto aide CHRIS HEMINGWAY over Cambrian School District trustee JUDY CHIRCO. "He has the political experience and he knows how City Hall works."

COPE-ing Skills

At the South Bay Labor Council COPE Banquet Oct. 27, Eye's spies spotted state controller candidate STEVE WESTLY sitting at a table with political fixer CLIFF STATON. Thing is, Staton is running the campaign of Westly's Democratic rival, Board of Equalization member JOHAN KLEHS. "We had extra seats and he didn't have a seat," Staton says. "I've known him for 15 years, so we chatted; it was comical. There was a guy sitting between us who was with the United Food and Commercial Workers who said it was like sitting between his first wife and his second wife."

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From the November 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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