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How Now, Ed Zschau?

Everyone is scratching their heads trying to figure out why Ed Zschau, Mr. Republican of Silicon Valley, has signed on as presidential veep candidate for the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Reform Party, instead of drumming up support for fellow presidential pachyderm Bob Dole. Speculation rippling through the valley runs that Zschau may be burnishing his maverick credentials for a 1998 run for the U.S. Senate seat held by tailspinning Demo Barbara Boxer, whose public approval rating has slipped to below 40 percent and is regarded by insiders as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent senator in the country. ... That line of thinking could also explain why Zschau protégé Tom Campbell is not scurrying after Boxer's seat, as might normally be the case. (Out at Camp Campbell, the mantra is, repeat after Eye: "The congressman is very happy serving the people of the 15th District.") Zschau's Reform Party foray, on the other tusk, could have some added Reep significance. Eye watchers may recall that when Zschau made his so-close-but-no-cigar bid for Alan Cranston's Senate seat back in 1986, the Republican Party failed to come through with requested financial help in the closing weeks of the race. Zschau subsequently lost one of the closest elections in the history of the Senate, plunged a half-millon dollars into debt, and virtually dropped out of politics to pay it back. Who was in charge of his party's Senate campaign coffers at the time? A senator from Kansas, named Bob Dole.

Diridon: The Next Generation

Santa Clara City Council candidate Rod Diridon Jr., who formally declared his electoral aspirations shortly after having his hand tipped in this column, has gotten out of the gate quick in his run for the 4th District seat about to be vacated by term-limited incumbent Dave DeLozier. In fact, young Rod might well be accused of overkill judging from his early list of endorsers. His bigshot brigade so far includes Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, state Senators Al Alquist and Byron Sher, San Jose Councilwoman Trixie Johnson, former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, Supervisors Mike Honda and Jim Beall, Assemblyman John Vasconcellos and Santa Clara County Sheriff Chuck Gillingham. Worried about getting tagged as the power-brokers' pick, Diridon was quick to note that he is also generating support from a number of next-generation political leaders around the Valley, such as former Santa Clara library board leader Debbie Levine, activists Marnie Seid and Rachel Dinno, and fiscal watchdogs Bob and Glorian Quigley, who led the recent unsuccessful drive to recall beleaguered Santa Clara councilman Jim Arno. With the local heavyweights already on board, the recognizably named young candidate issued a savvy, but potentially dangerous, challenge this week, pledging to voluntarily limit contributions to his campaign to $500 from any single source no matter what any other candidates might do. "We have a pretty sorry history in this city of council candidates taking contributions of more than $10,000 from a single source, like a garbage company," Young Rod reminds us, pledging to stick with his contribution limit no matter what happens. "I'm not real worried," he tells us, "plus, if you want to be a leader," he earnestly explains, "you have to lead by example. So that is what I am going to try to do." Let's see what happens if and when the garbage starts to fly. ...

Better Notes, Next Time

How public is a public hearing? Gary Wood at the Human Rights Defense Committee is steamed that after making the grand jury hearing public, the county isn't releasing transcripts from the Gustavo Soto Mesa criminal grand jury hearing. In June, the grand jury decided not to indict the cop who shot the unarmed Soto Mesa in the back of the head. Aware of the keen public interest in the case, the District Attorney's Office took the unprecedented step of opening the grand jury hearing to the public. ... In a tape of an April meeting with District Attorney George Kennedy, Kennedy told Wood the transcripts "should" be released and that he would "try" to release them. ... But Bill Larsen, the assistant DA who handles the grand jury, says no go. He says legal code provisions that allow an open hearing only in high-profile cases involving a public employee say nothing about changing policy on transcripts, which are never released for closed hearings. Transcripts are only made when they're needed for a later criminal trial. ... As for Kennedy's statements? Larsen says they resulted from an "unfortunate mixup in communication." ... Wood isn't satisfied, saying he wants to document a "clear pro-sheriff bias" displayed by the D.A. at the hearing. "Kennedy said he'd petition the court to [get the transcripts], and he hasn't." ... Terry Francke, director of the California First Amendment Coalition, points out, "If it's within the discretion of the DA to open the hearing in the first place, one would think the Legislature would intend to give the DA the discretion to release the transcripts."

Then and Thou

Trying not to choke on the political placebo of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Santa Clara County Board of Supes is slated to vote on at its Aug. 13 meeting having a domestic partners registry in Santa Clara County. ... And by the look of things, it may come down to a holy war of sorts, fought on a battlefield of gay rights. ... In response to fervent opposition from fundamentalists out at South Valley Christian, led by Pastor Peter Wilkes, the Santa Clara County Council of Churches, led by Vaughn Beckman, has thrown its cloth into the fray, joining the Human Relations Commission and the ACLU in support of the registry." We didn't want to make such a big noise out of it, but since they are, we feel we have to balance it out," reports Jim Dugan of the Human Relations Commission. ... Contrary to misconceptions, registry language does not require employers to extend benefits to a partner, but creates mutual responsibility for basic living expenses, as well as for any children raised together. Does the torrent of holy mail currently raining down upon the Supervisors offices portend a vote night showdown? Probably, Dugan predicts, but not of the ilk that would require riot gear. "Both sides have threatened to have their own prayer vigils," he notes "A bunch of people standing around praying shouldn't present too much of a problem."

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From the August 8-14, 1996 issue of Metro

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