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Campaign Getaway: With less than a month until the election, Eye spotted sheriff candidate Laurie Smith in a Lake Tahoe casino last Friday night.

Home Away From Home

Faithful readers of this column know that sheriff candidate Laurie Smith owns homes in both Palo Alto and South Lake Tahoe. In fact, her hubby, Brannan, runs a traffic school in the resort town and even ran for City Council there. Smith insists that Tahoe is no more than a regular vacation spot for her and not a full-time residence, despite the fact that the couple claims homeowners' tax exemptions on both properties, something her opponent, Ruben Diaz, has pounced upon. So whom should Eye coincidentally spot strolling hand-in-hand at Harvey's Casino in Tahoe last Friday night about 11 p.m. but Smith and her husband. Smith explains that she was in town briefly to attend a retirement dinner for a friend, South Lake Tahoe police chief and supervisor-elect Dave Solaro. Smith says she returned to Santa Clara County early the next morning to get back to the business of campaigning. Still, Diaz information minister Ed Vasquez couldn't resist chuckling at the thought of their opponent lounging in Lake Tahoe with the election less than a month away. "I can tell you what Ruben didn't do," Vasquez snorts. "He didn't go to Lake Tahoe. He was busy making phone calls, soliciting money and preparing the direct mail." ... Meanwhile, Smith can put another notch on her belt this week. The most current campaign reports show yet another of Diaz's former bosses supporting his opponent. Foster City top cop Robert Norman gave $100 to Smith on Sept. 30. That donation comes on the heels of retired Milpitas chief Jim Murray announcing his endorsement of Smith. Diaz worked under both men before becoming assistant sheriff in 1990. The Rubester chickened out and refused to return Eye's calls directly. Instead, the gun-toting lawman sent his messenger boy to deliver a prepared statement denying any suggestion that his old jefes think he was a lousy employee. "The decisions by Norman and Murray are personal and not professional in nature. I have had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement."

Join the Club

Many local Democrats were none too pleased when the venerable African American Democratic Club crossed party lines to endorse Republican Pat Dando for mayor last month. And it looks now like the move has created a fissure among African American pols in San Jose. Prominent black Dems backing their comrade Ron Gonzales against Dando have hastily put together the brand-new African American Democratic Coalition, which the party central committee christened as a charter member of its flock one week ago. Among those behind the new coalition are Gonzo-squadders like San Jose Councilwoman Alice Woody, Alum Rock school trustee Tony Alexander and Eastside school trustee Craig Mann. The coalition is expected to hold a press conference Thursday announcing its support for Gonzales. Surprise, surprise.

Follow the Money

People are buzzing in Milpitas these days about the unlikely cast of characters supporting Measure Z, a proposed ordinance that would create an urban-growth boundary on the hillsides. As might be suspected, environmentalist groups like the Greenbelt Alliance are backing the ballot measure. But the campaign spokesman at a forum last week was no bearded Birkenstock poster boy; it was former Building Industry Association shill Vice Mayor Bob Livengood. And the single largest contributor to the campaign is a developer named the RecreAction Group of Companies. RGC has poured $10,000 into the pro-Z campaign so far. So what's the deal-e-o? Anti-Z troops are are privately talking about the possibility of a mutual back-scratching arrangement. At the very least, it looks like a shrewd attempt to get in the good graces of Livengood and Councilwoman Patricia Dixon, another major supporter, while the developer and the city negotiate the terms of a $1.5 million subsidy. Why else would a developer be supporting an anti-development ballot measure? RGC coughed up the dough for the campaign just three weeks after the City Council approved its proposed housing project near the Great Mall--where Livengood works and collects his paycheck--and started the paperwork on the subsidy. (Livengood abstained from voting to avoid a potential conflict of interest.) The Bobster told an audience last week that RGC's contribution just exemplifies the diverse range of groups backing Measure Z. He went on to explain that some developers who have built projects on the valley floor realize that carving up the hillsides just ain't a swell idea. Actually, based on who has given money to the Z campaign, only one developer is so enlightened thus far: RGC.

Missing in Action

So where is Dan Terry? A witness has positively identified the Milpitas City Council candidate as the driver who struck a Somalian motorist in the mouth on a Milpitas street last month and then jumped back in his car and disappeared. The district attorney's office is presently considering assault-and-battery charges against the 40-year-old electronics engineering manager. Milpitas police say they can't determine if a weapon was used in the alleged assault. Eye has found no truth to the rumor that the alleged assault was a demonstration of Terry's campaign promise to "establish a comprehensive program to alleviate traffic congestion." But in the meantime, Disappearing Dan seems to have vanished from the campaign trail. While his signs started showing up on Milpitas lawns last week, Dan himself begged off a Chamber of Commerce debate, sending a note saying he was absent because of an "unforeseen" family commitment. Terry hasn't always been so publicity-shy. When he ran for mayor two years ago, the Republican Central Committee member criticized scandals and lawsuits coming out of Milpitas City Hall, and told the Merc that Milpitas has "a veil of secrecy that must be lifted." So what's the secret now?

Go West

Throughout the San Jose mayoral campaign, District 10 diva Pat Dando has been advertising the support of her old boss, ex-Mayor Tom McEnery. McEnery's support for Dando, however, has seemed tepid at best. In the primary, as Eyewatchers may recall, he planted campaign signs in his lawn only for downtown candidate Tony West. The latest word is that the Macster has now all but abandoned protégé Pat. Sources tell Eye that McEnery has been making phone calls on behalf of both candidates, but directing the hesitant to just back West if they can only afford to help one of the two. Seems that McEnery thinks West has a legitimate shot at beating District 3 dynamo Cindy Chavez, while Dando can only hope to make a respectable second-place showing come Nov. 3. McEnery didn't respond to a message left by Eye on his voicemail. Dando, meanwhile, now lists Kathy Chavez Napoli as her top endorser on her Web site.


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From the October 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro.

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