You folks in the 43rd Congressional District won't have to wash your hands after going to your mailbox; this election's over.
The Ick Factor that made voters squirm was perhaps nowhere ickier than in this Riverside County race, where GOP freshman Rep. Ken Calvert was in a rematch with Democrat Mark Takano, who lost to Calvert by a few hundred votes in 1992.
Calvert was caught with a prostitute by police last year--and nearly lost the primary because of it. Takano aired radio ads quoting Jay Leno joking about the incident. A mailer cited the police report in all its graphic detail, and on the front--framing a photo of a casting director's idea of a hooker, and a man's hand extending a fistful of money--are the words, "It's midnight. Do you know where your congressman is?"
Calvert's mailers--once upon a time they called it campaign "literature," remember?--quoted another Republican legislator calling Takano a "nutzoid liberal."
And another carried broad hints of the "at-least-I-like-girls" variety. The pink color of his "Mark Takano . . . EXPOSED!" wasn't the only shocking thing about it. Inside, it cited Takano's support for gays in the military and partnership benefits for gay couples, then asked, in pink letters, "A Congressman for Riverside . . . or San Francisco?" (Takano has declined to discuss his sexual orientation as irrelevant.)
The winner: Calvert. The loser: everybody in the 43rd District with a mailing address.
So long, so very long: Losing candidates we're sorry to lose--a Republican in Berkeley and a Rodent in Santa Cruz.
Businessman and lawyer Tom Burcham, who believes he was the first Republican to seek a nonpartisan Berkeley City Council seat since, oh, the Summer of Love, did not get lifted up by the GOP victory tsunami.
But with 36%, he did better than the city's 9% Republican registration. "We have customers come up in the store," he had said hopefully. "They sort of look around furtively and say, 'I'm a Republican.' "
And, gentlemen, we won't have Rodent to kick around anymore. The Santa Cruz gas pump jockey and band promoter, a 24-year-old Woodstock baby by name and age, put himself forward for the council pledging a do-nothing term of office (not much new there), upfront lying to voters (now we're getting somewhere), a height-to-weight requirement for Spandex-wearing ("Spandex is not a right"), and having gentlemen listed as an endangered species (too late, perhaps, to halt extinction there).
Alas, poor Rodent: Once the Spandex Civil Liberties Union came out against him, it was all over.
Where They Voted--or Didn't
More than 58% of the state's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday, a turnout that could rise to 62% when all absentee ballots are tallied. But that average was far exceeded by the three top-turnout counties, all in Northern California. The three with the lowest turnout were in the Central Valley.
County Registered Voters Pct. Voting Alpine 819 86.4 Glenn 10,993 76.7 Sierra 2,275 73.9
County Registered Voters Pct. Voting San Joaquin 232,747 47.9 Fresno 322,550 49 Stanislaus 172,490 50.2
Source: Calif. Secretary of State
Researched by TRACY THOMAS/Los Angeles Times
Take my please, wife: There's the $64,000 question . . . and the $5-million word.
The length of TV campaign sound bites has shrunk--from 43 seconds in 1968 to a scant 9 seconds in 1988--and now, even the magic word please , which takes about half a second to utter, has been cut from Pacific Bell's directory assistance operators' greeting.
Here's the math: about 2.5 million inquiries a day, at 22 seconds per call . . . let's see--dropping "please" lets in another 57,000 calls a day--at two bits each.
So instead of "What city, please?" callers hear "Hi, this is (name), what city?"
And even that (name) part is subject to revision: if the given (name) is overlong, operators can use a fake (name).
No wonder Rabindranath Tagore and Nathanael West chose careers in writing.
Draw! Dianne Feinstein and Mike Huffington weren't the only ones chewing their nails well into election night.
Skip and Lew had a few rough hours, too.
Alpine County Sheriff Henry (Skip) Veatch had already gone through a cliffhanger against Villa (Lew) Roper in June, when they tied with 276 votes each--and that represented more than three-fourths of the county's registered voters.
In Tuesday's runoff--which generated the state's highest turnout, 86.4%--it didn't take long to count the votes from four of Alpine's five precincts. Roper was ahead by 17 votes.
But where was that last precinct? Where was Bear Valley?
Three and a half hours later, Bear Valley weighed in like the mail carrier undaunted by snow or gloom of night. California 4 had already been closed for the winter, and couriers had to carry the ballots through Calaveras and Amador counties to get to Alpine's county seat (not by cross-country skis, more's the pity, or there'd be a movie of the week in it).
Bear Valley, where Veatch said he "felt really confident," came through; he won, 383 to 316.
"I might have killed that lady, but I'm no burglar."
--Bob Russell Williams Jr., accused of special circumstances murder, sodomy and burglary, speaking to Bakersfield homicide detective Steve Ramsey. Quoted in the Bakersfield Californian.
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