A year ago, it looked like the end of the 10-count: California was on the ropes, electricity-wise, and Texas outfits like Enron were biting the state's ear--$1.4 billion just for February 2001--and getting rich, rich, rich. And state Sen. Steve Peace, the El Cajon Democrat, the architect of deregulation, was getting the kilowatts beaten out of him. People phoned his office to gripe. They shouted at him in airports. He gave up the idea of running for secretary of state; in his own town they said he couldn't get elected dog catcher.
Against this backdrop, one day a year ago, Peace flagged down Enron lobbyist and former Assembly member Bev Hansen.
"First he said, in less than five years there won't be an Enron," said Hansen. "I said, 'Oh, Steve.' Then he said, 'In less than three years, they'll be in bankruptcy.'"
They made a bet: Loser buys dinner.
"I never dreamed when I cast that bet that he would be so right, so soon," said Hansen. "It was absolutely flabbergasting. It took far less than three years."
Now she regards Peace with awe, as the political incarnation of the chess geniuses who can see eight or 10 moves ahead.
Alas for Peace's appetite, state law means he may never get his free dinner. But Hansen, a "longtime friend" who "respects him a great deal," says, "We'll work something out." (Maybe fast food? Hansen's Enron lobbying days ended when the company filed for bankruptcy in December.)
And now, the big musical finish for Peace's psychic act: On the day last month that Kenneth Lay resigned as Enron's CEO, Peace called a Times energy reporter and sang into the phone, "Ding dong, the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead!"
Recall the winged monkeys.
Simon Boasts, Then Backs Off
As the polls have lifted Bill Simon Jr.'s prospects for governor, a little hot air has been wafting around, too.
In a recent meeting with its editorial board, the Sacramento Bee says, Simon bragged that he and his wife were "very active" in their son's Santa Monica charter school. Ah, but when pressed, Simon conceded that it was really his wife who was the active one, heading up the school's beautification committee.
Then he couldn't say what distinguished the school other than the fact that it has a charter. "My wife was really much more heavily involved," he limped along.
Simon also put a little extra burnish on his prosecutorial career, telling the Bee that he left a Wall Street law firm for the U.S. attorney's office, to go "into the business of going after people on Wall Street," he said, "as opposed to making money on Wall Street." Pressed for particulars, Simon acknowledged that most of his time was spent on civil matters, and he had nothing to do with going after financial felons. "I did not do anything in the securities fraud area," he said.
For Those Who Are Poets and Know It
A scant, mere seven people have applied as of this day
To be the poet laureate of Califor-ny-ay.
And so the deadline's longer now, you still have eight more days
To qualify to be the guy who pens the words of praise.
So check it out--it won't pay much, you're doing it for love:
www dot cac dot ca then dot gov.
And Speaking of Poetry ...
Probably not in the running for poet laureate is part-time poet Luke Breit, one of Sacramento magazine's 30 "smart, sexy, eligible singles."
Breit told the mag he runs to the mailbox each month for the American Poetry Review, and, if he could repeat one day in his life, would relive the "great poetry reading" in San Francisco, the post-verse party and "the most amazing night of lovemaking" that followed.
The jazz-loving Taurus is a senior aide to former Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg, and he also just cost the taxpayers a chunk of change.
The Assembly paid $140,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint by a staff member who said Breit tried to kiss her when they were discussing a pay raise, and kept putting his arms around her and such--all allegations he denies.
(She also said that at a charity golf tournament, Assemblyman Lou Papan kept asking her to stand on a table and take off her sweater.)
Breit's sketch noted his most romantic gesture: Getting Victoria's Secret to open early for a champagne brunch and lingerie-buying extravaganza "for me and my honey."
Who's for Whom
Gray Davis: California State Firefighters' Assn., United Teachers-Los Angeles
Bill Jones: Conservative Women's Leadership Assn. of Orange County, Shasta County D.A. McGregor W. Scott
Richard Riordan: New York Gov. George Pataki
Bill Simon: Former GOP VP candidate, San Diego Chargers quarterback and Occidental College alum Jack Kemp.
* The last day to register to vote in the March 5 primary: Tuesday, Feb. 19.
* Gray Davis, whose campaign launched early and often against Richard Riordan for donating money to antiabortion candidates and causes before Riordan changed his mind on the issue, himself donated $5,000 to the 1994 "Beat the Recall" campaign against former state Sen. David Roberti, one of the Legislature's fiercest abortion foes.