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Usual Suspects

Sue You, Sue Me Blues

Attorney Don "Stop Frivolous Lawsuits" Kocalis, candidate for Superior Court judge in a tight three-way race, may soon be seeing action in a local courtroom, but not from behind the bench. He has become embroiled in a pair of lawsuits--including one filed this week at Sonoma County Municipal Court charging him with failure to pay a bill and harassment of a local business owner--that resulted from the repair of his Jeep at a Santa Rosa auto body shop. The flap started last October when Kocalis brought his severely damaged Jeep to G&C Auto Body for extensive repairs to the rear end. While his vehicle was in the shop, Kocalis rented a 1993 Chevy wagon from G&C. Then things got complicated. In a Feb. 28 lawsuit, Kocalis claims that G&C owner Gene Crozat charged "exorbitant rates" and wrongfully withheld his vehicle. In the countersuit, which asks for more than $8,000 in compensation and unspecified punitive damages, Crozat claims that Kocalis owes more than $5,800 in rental charges and several hundred dollars in storage fees. In addition, he says that the rental car was returned with ugly scrapes and dents, and that Kocalis failed to pay two parking tickets on the rental vehicle. What does Kocalis say about becoming involved in messy litigation on the eve of the election? "I asked my attorney to apply the frivolous lawsuit test before filing against G&C," he explains. "My attorney advised me that the case passed the test and is not frivolous." As for Crozat, he's now handing out "Tansil for Judge" bumper stickers at his office.


Only three of the seven candidates in the west county supervisors' race signed on to a clean campaign pledge over and above the basic one administered by the Registrar of Voters, and two of those three have been plagued by rumors they suspect are being circulated by rival candidates. Bill Dowd was the first to object, taking vigorous exception to unspecified reports that the family construction business was in dire financial straits because of the extent to which it had underwritten his campiagn. At a candidates' night in Sebastopol, he publicly called on the others to actively dispel that rumor anytime they might encounter it. Now anonymous notes to the media are trying to cast aspersions on Mike Reilly, alleging he is hiding a past DUI conviction. "It's a 9-year-old charge without a conviction," Reilly says, "and if that's the best they can find on me, I must be doing OK. I'm sure they've looked." Both Dowd and Reilly harbor specific suspicions about which of their rivals is behind the rumor-mongering, but chose not to make them public.

Family Values

With candidates everywhere we look these days, it was almost surprising to find just one pressing the flesh Saturday at the California Parenting Institute's Family Expo at the county fairgrounds. That would be Lawrence Buchanan, candidate for the Superior Court seat being vacated by Rex Sater. Buchanan ruefully acknowledged that sharing a surname with a high-profile presidential hopeful is a mixed blessing. "Some people come up and want to shake my hand," he said, "but others won't even talk to me." Buchanan's electoral rivals, Mark Tansil and Don Kocalis, were the only other two candidates represented by booths at the Family Expo (along with the low-key presence of the League of Women Voters). It's a curious choice of venue, until you realize that child custody disputes in contested divorces are frequently settled by, you guessed it, Superior Court judges.

Write On

Just when the 1st District supervisorial race was taking on all the excitement of dry toast, Laura Graham has decided to try and inject a little life by declaring herself a new write-in challenger to incumbent Mike Cale. Despite finishing back in the pack in the field of five declared candidates in 1992, Graham is hopeful that she and Roger Williams can somehow pull enough votes to so that one of them will get a runoff with Cale in November. Graham says the "arrogance" displayed by the supervisors in the Community Hospital lease debate "was the last forkload of hay, the last straw," that pushed her to jump into the campaign, albeit late in the game. She has also renounced her lifelong Republican Party affiliation to sign on with Ross Perot's Reform Party. As Graham herself notes, "I am not one of the good old boys."

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From the Mar. 14-20, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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