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Laugh Now: S.J. Mayor Ron Gonzales (left) and friend-for-a-night Mike Honda (right) were the evening's big winners.

Public Eye

The Ronathon

CALL Ron Gonzales San Jose's Comeback Kid. Two months ago, a sex scandal threatened to submarine the ambitious Ron Juan's career aspirations. A new poll commissioned by Calpine Corp. (now being circulated in City Hall) in October showed the mayor's negatives jumping to 31 percent while previous campaign polls before the scandal showed his unfavorable rating in single digits. Election night, however, belonged to Hizronner: All three city council candidates he endorsed cruised to victory. So did the three major city of San Jose ballot measures. including the Greenline. But most importantly, Measure A, the traffic-relief tax that its cheerleaders promise will bring BART to San Jose, easily topped the two-thirds hurdle. Many a local pundit viewed Measure A, which the mayor essentially willed onto the ballot, as a referendum on Ron himself. "Overall," observes semi-retired political hack Rich Robinson, "he [Gonzales] still has some problems, but this is a good first step in starting to overcome those." ... The big losers of the evening, aside from Al Gore, had to be self-mutilating supervisors Blanca Alvarado and Jim Beall. The two spent precious political capital the past few months fighting a traffic-relief measure in gridlock-weary Silicon Valley. Go figure. Eye-watchers will recall that the Board of Supes, thanks to Beall and Alvarado, refused to put a BART tax on the ballot, which forced Gonzo to persuade his buddies on the Valley Transportation Authority to do it instead. Now, thanks to Beall and Alvarado, county government ultimately won't have any say over how Measure A dough gets spent. That privilege belongs to the politicos on the VTA board, which the mayor currently sits on. ... Of course, the mayor isn't the only one basking in the post-election accolades. So is his staff chieftain Jude Barry, who took a leave of absence from his City Hall job to co-direct the Measure A campaign. Former City Council candidate Nancy Pyle winked to Eye Tuesday night that Gov. Gray Davis might want a brilliant strategist like Barry on his team. The Judester admits that in the recent past Gray-baiters have talked to him about working for the guv. But Barry--rumored in recent months to be looking for a new job--says his near-future plan is "to go back to City Hall and picked up where I left off." Asked if he plans to stay with Gonzales for the remainder of his first term, Barry says cryptically, "That's up to the mayor."

The A List

Not surprisingly, the Yes on Measure A wingding reflected some of the spare change left over from the $2 million nut raised by the BART backers. Held between the charmingly distressed back walls of downtown Gordon Biersch, the party grew increasingly festive on designer beer and artfully spread canapés as the votes were tallied in favor of extending BART to San Jose on the back of a half-cent sales tax. ... Although the cream--or at least the half-and-half--of Silicon political muscle showed up. Where, oh where, were the fashion police? There was felony foot apparel--quick! buy shares in Payless shoes!--and at least one zebra-print outfit was begging for a standoff with T.J. Hooker and his weighty baton. ... Measure A hench-couple Carl Guardino and Leslee Coleman were there, but no celebratory liplocks ... Mood, style and particularly coiffures took a tragic turn for the worse over at Fuel, where the No on A camp was holding vigil. Largely funded by Edenvale Holdings, a nom de plume for ranch owners hankering to build outside the greenline, the anti-A movement appeared heavily peopled by mullet-wearing young women and pageboy-tressed men commiserating as their cause swirled down the drain like Prell. Thank God for Supe Blanca Alvarado, who brightened the dingy atmo with a stunning cinnamon taffeta pantsuit and perfectly matched scarf. The diminutive pol conceded that Measure A's passage would consolidate Mayor Ron's power, proving that midlife-crisis hanky-panky was no barrier to his political ascendance. ... "I strongly believe that the mayor wanted to demonstrate that he was the mayor that brought BART to San Jose," said Alvarado during a cigarette break outside the hallowed hipster haunt. "It will look good on his résumé."

Huggie Bear: Congressman-elect Mike Honda inadvertently crushes the skull of a supporter at his election night victory party in San Jose.

Distancing Cousins

As might be expected, things were plenty jubilant at Mike Honda headquarters, where the assemblyman-cum-congressman wowed attendees by singing "Blowin' in the Wind." The karaoke king didn't get to croon as much as he would've liked at his victory party, since people kept turning down the music so they could hear the presidential drama in Florida. ... Despite Mighty Mike's convincing double-digit victory, it wasn't all shits and giggles at the Hondafest. Eye learned that Mike's brain man, cousin and longtime chief of staff, Keith Honda, won't be heading to D.C. Apparently, the feds have an anti-nepotism rule, so Mike can't make his new office a family affair. Keith told Eye that he's going to work for former Santa Clara County Executive Sally Reed down in Monterey as a budget analyst. Keith confessed he would be a little sad leaving Mike's employ. "There's a certain melancholy," he mused. "It's a big change." Eye suspects Cousin Keith, one of the top-paid staffers in the Legislature, making nearly $120,000 a year, will be very sad once he gets his first paycheck. He'll only be pulling in around 80 g's at his new gig.

Can I Get a 'Hell, Yeah?' A jubilant Rebecca Cohn thanks parental units, staff, hubby, volunteers and the Academy for her election performance.

Trash Talk

The hard fought campaign of victorious Democratic state Assembly candidate Rebecca Cohn came to an anticlimactic close around 11:30, when Cohn all but declared victory with returns showing her five points ahead. While the Measure A folks knew the old political adage of overstuffing a tiny room to create a high energy event--they packed everyone into a cramped alley behind a downtown microbrewery--a small clump of Cohnheads rattled about in a cavernous ballroom at the Wyndham Hotel on North First Street. Taking on the character of a family event, Cohn profusely thanked hubby Ron, her supporters and professional staff for so long that George W. Bush won and lost the presidency before she finished her remarks. While Bushies held a frat party on the projection television screen behind Cohn, Eye slipped away from the hors d'oeuvre table to try and bait some Republicans in the downstairs bar into buying a house victory round. (The cheap Reeps wouldn't bite.) ... Cohn defeated Sue Jackson, mayor of metropolitan Monte Sereno, who went postal with a last minute barrage of nasty mail that will pay the pensions of many a letter carrier. Cohn campaign crank Trent Hager felt so cocky that he left Jackson a late-night call, the losing lady says, sarcastically sneering that he wanted "to see what it feels like to [waste] $300,000 of your own money to get your ass kicked in an Assembly race." ... Jackson is stubbornly refusing to concede she has had her ass kicked yet, however. Jackson vows not to concede anything "until the last vote is counted."

Wanna Get Away? Soon to be unemployed Assemblyman Jim Cunneen timidly approaches TV reporters for work.

Gas and Burn

The Gaslighter Theater in downtown Campbell was definitely full of hot air election night, serving as the party venue for the Republican Moderate Squad--Senate candidate Tom Campbell, Congressional wannabe Jim Cunneen and aforementioned Assembly aspirant Sue Jackson. While it was a good night for Reeps nationally--the pale-ale fueled crowd broke into a chant of "no more Gore" after CNN announced Bush's W--it was not a joyous occasion for the local contingent. ... Campbell, who broke a record for quickest concession phone call, cut out early. A campaign adviser told Eye to expect to see Campbell keep a political profile in the near future, perhaps dabbling in a campaign finance reform initiative. Jackson split a little while after Campbell did, explaining that she had to fly to Boston early the next morning to see her daughter, who had just been hospitalized (she is doing well, Sue says). ... Cunneen, meanwhile, held out making his concession call to Mike Honda until around 11:30pm, when it became abundantly clear that the estimated $1 million in TV time the party bought for the last week couldn't save him. Jimbo and his aides grumbled about Bush getting trounced by more than 20 percent in Santa Clara County, leading a backer to thoughtfully observe, "This is not a good county to be a Republican in." As for his next career move, a dejected Cunneen joked, "Are there any openings at Metro?" He also asked a KNTV reporter, "Are there any openings at Channel 11?"

And Goshdarnit, People Like Me: New S.J. City Councilman Ken Yeager gets up-close-and-personal with the microphone.

Weeping Willow

In San Jose City Council District 6--the only close council race of the night--Willow Glen neighborhood activist and candidate Kris Cunningham tried to remain upbeat about early returns that showed her trailing opponent Ken Yeager by a couple of percentage points. Hubby Gary served drinks to guests who were glued to television and computer screens at the couple's Carolyn Avenue home and munching on a colorful spread of sushi and festive wraps. County supe and pal Blanca Alvarado showed up with Sylvia Gallegos, toting a laptop for up-to-the-minute election results. Alvarado said she had counseled Kris earlier in the week after a derogatory gay-bashing letter and cartoon was distributed to area businesses and blamed on a supporter (who says he didn't do it). Cunningham suspected a Machiavellian Yeager backer, who wanted Kris's camp to look homophobic, was the real author and cartoonist. "It's really unfortunate because I think there was a misguided element supporting Ken and ultimately the piece was so demeaning to the gay community," said Cunningham. ... Out at the Lou's Village shindig for the Yeagermeister, Ken supporters dismissed the impact of the strangely crafted, last minute missive, now reportedly under investigation as a hate crime. "I think it didn't hit a wide enough universe of voters," said 30-year-old campaign coordinator and former Yeager student Denelle Fedor, "but it was unfortunate." ... Guests grazed unenthusiastically on garlic bread and broken chips and paid for drinks at a small bar. As the gap widened between 10:30 and 11pm, Fedor and former Yeager student Dustin DeRollo, now an aide to the mayor, began to pace restlessly until DeRollo blurted out almost frantically, "WHERE'S KEN? The candidate had unexpectedly slipped out for a few minutes before his moment of glory, but when he took the podium it became clear why. "Well," the SJSU poly-sci instructor said, as the crowd of 75 held their Heinekens in midair, "I talked to my mother." The crowd twittered. "And I said, 'We won!'" ... The celebratory crowd included The Glen restaurant/bar co-owner John Karamanos, who said his support of Yeager was a payback to Cunningham for leading the neighbors in opposing his Lincoln Avenue bar staying open until 2am instead of midnight. "All her enemies are here," he said bluntly, ticking off their names one by one. "I guarantee you we cost her a couple of thousand votes," the Patio Drive resident continued, modestly adding that he and his wife Stella had mobilized "the whole Greek community."

Bye-bye, Dolly

On the surface, things were exceptionally civil at the election parties for the North County supervisor's seat. Amongst tables laden with pastry-covered Brie and toasted cashews, Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss' well-heeled Stanford crowd anticipated the race as their candidate, pulled into a last-minute grandma-kissing photo op, gracefully smiled for the press. "This is an extremely close race," she said. "It hasn't been a whistle clean campaign, but the stakes are high." But, true to the calling of campaign manager, Kindel Blau expressed ire over the candidates' recent slugging match, refereed by the Campaign Ethics Foundation. The foundation ruled on Nov. 3 that Kniss had violated the ethics pledge by sending out a misleading press release about an earlier decision by the foundation. Kniss originally targeted her opponent, Dolly Sandoval, with the same charge--violating her pledge--but the tactic backfired. Blau's response was tight-lipped. "We've run an above-board, clean and honest campaign. I don't even want to comment on Sandoval's campaign. ... Meanwhile, the folks at Sandoval campaign headquarters were complaining about the nasty Miss Kniss. Sandoval, casually leaning against her kitchen sink, commented on her opponent's last-minute hit piece--a mailer depicting Sandoval as a plebian interloper from San Jose. Sandoval groused that the mailer, which featured an ominous photo of her Mexican mug and described her as Dolly "San Jose" Sandoval, had racist overtones. "Voters," she opined, "are appalled by the negativity of the Kniss campaign." Apparently, not appalled enough, since Kniss ultimately edged out Sandoval 51 to 49 percent.

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From the November 9-15, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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