San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha, a swing vote on a divided council, likes to mix it up rhetorically with his fellow city leaders, challenging them to lower their ideological lances to find common ground. The swords were drawn for Tuesday's meeting, yet another duel on the dais over the city's soaring employee retirement costs and an exodus of police officers over the city's voter-approved efforts to rein in pensions.
But when Rocha took his seat sporting a black eye, we had to wonder whether the long morning closed-session talks had been more than a little spirited.
Since we knew you'd be wondering the same thing, we phoned Rocha the next morning to inquire. No, he sighs, he didn't get in a tussle with Councilman Sam Liccardo over peeling back pension reforms. And, no, he didn't have a bruising debate with novice re-election challenger Lois Wilco-Owens. The dapper, athletic councilman who's been known to moonlight as a model informs us that he collided with another player at a recent amateur adult-league soccer match. So there you go. We didn't catch whether his hard play helped deliver a win for his team. He was off to the beach with the kids during their spring break.
Judicial candidates vie for endorsement from South Bay labor council
The jury (pun intended) is still out on which lucky judicial candidates will win the valuable endorsement of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. A key factor may be how much influence the council's executive officer, Ben Field, exerts.
As a former prosecutor, he's a lot more knowledgeable about the local bench than most. However, Field is also the former Santa Clara County prosecutor whose license to practice law was suspended for four years for "inexcusable" acts of misconduct, including disobeying judges' orders.
Ah, the irony.
The two races pit defense attorney D.A. Lempert against prosecutor Julianne Sylva for an open seat, and sitting Judge Diane Ritchie against two challengers -- prosecutor Matt Harris and defense attorney Annrae Angel.
Field is overseer of the labor council's PAC, the Committee on Political Education (COPE).
Candidates must win the approval of two-thirds of COPE members, who then recommend endorsements to the council's executive board and delegates, which are separate entities. Once they make it through all three hoops -- by a two-thirds vote every time -- COPE promises candidates "at least one if not all" of the following: direct mail in support of their campaign, voter education both door-to-door and by phone, and financial contributions.
Ritchie, who served as a lawyer for a school employee union for more than a decade before becoming a judge, benefited greatly from labor's support in 2008, when she was first elected to a six-year term against a veteran homicide prosecutor who was endorsed by most of the legal establishment. But with his legal ties, Field surely also knows Ritchie's reputation as a blunderbuss of a judge.
As for the Lempert and Sylva race, we wonder whether Field's ties to the D.A.'s office might give prosecutor Sylva the edge. Then again, the labor group may end up not endorsing anybody if the candidates cannot garner the two-thirds votes.
Union groups accuse Liccardo of violating campaign regulations
We know it's election season when we get bombarded with complaints about alleged breaches of arcane campaign laws. It seems like only yesterday when labor-aligned foes of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed accused him of illegally funneling cash to promote council ally Rose Herrera's re-election, an assertion a judge rejected on free-speech grounds.
Fast-forward to the 2014 primary season, and we already have a fresh crop of complaints, this time targeting another Reed ally running to replace him: District 3 Councilman Sam Liccardo. Complaints lodged with San Jose's Elections Commission and the state's Fair Political Practices Commission last week accuse Liccardo of lining up campaign donors before the law allows, violating campaign accounting rules and failing to disclose "in-kind" contributions from supporters who hosted campaign events.
Lodging those complaints was Steve Kline, who residents might remember unsuccessfully challenged District 6 Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio in his 2012 re-election bid.
Liccardo's foes in organized labor have been poking at this for weeks now, with the anonymous Daily Fetch blog dubbing him "Cheaties Liccardo."
Liccardo's political advisers scoff at what they call a political stunt without substance.
"This kind of frivolous complaint has sadly become the norm in San Jose campaigns," campaign manager Ragan Henninger said. "It is part of the campaign arsenal of some of the labor unions that are still angry with Sam Liccardo, Mayor Reed and other council members who stood up to reform unsustainable pension costs. Similar baseless complaints have also been filed in the past against Mayor Reed, the Chamber of Commerce and other candidates, leaders and groups that supported pension reform. Put simply, it's a retaliatory move designed to intimidate those who stood up against powerful special interests -- and today it's directed at the person those special interests view as the biggest threat to their hand-picked candidate."
By that she presumably means Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.
Culliver appears at dog show, but fundraiser isn't a rousing success
The first fundraiser for 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver's foundation was held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on April 5 and, lo and behold, the host did make a surprise appearance.
The event, which featured a dog show and benefitted Culliver's animal rights cause, became a decidedly low-key after his recent arrest in San Jose on suspicion of hit-and-run as well as being in possession of brass knuckles. (Maybe Culliver had thought he might be encountering a Seattle Seahawk.)
A Culliver spokesman said the event drew about 200 people, but it only ended up netting about half of the day's expenses.
Culliver remains on the 49ers, and he may still be in the mix for a starting position this fall. But his legal trouble likely means stocking up on cornerbacks will be a team emphasis in the upcoming NFL draft.
Meanwhile, Culliver had another appearance -- this one mandatory. He pleaded not guilty on Friday on a felony count for the brass knuckles and two misdemeanor charges for hit-and-run causing injury and causing property damage from the accident with the cyclist.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by John Woolfolk, Tracey Kaplan, Mark Emmons and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-920-5782.