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More local reaction to Gov. Sarah Palin (expanded Web version)

Here’s a longer, more in-depth version of Saturday’s print version of the Insider.

For those who follow politics closely, it feels like a long, long time has passed since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage Aug. 29 as Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

After several days of negative media attention, the storm dissipated last Wednesday when she gave a sharp, snarky and smoothly delivered speech that electrified the party faithful at the Republican National Convention, dispelling some doubts about her addition to the ticket.

The long-term effects of her entry into the race remain unclear. Will the shine of her speech fade as voters learn more about her history in Alaska, from Troopergate to tax hikes? Will McCain’s fourth-quarter substitution of family values for national security boost or destroy his chance for an upset? (The answer so far is: boost.)

Local Republican Greg Conlon, who is running for a House seat against Jackie Speier, was inside St. Paul, Minn.’s Xcel Energy Center Sept. 3 when Wasilla Mooseburger breathed life into what had been a low-wattage convention. It was “spontaneous combustion when Palin hit the floor,” Conlon recalled on Friday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Greg Conlon, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Local reaction to Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

A lot has happened since we spoke with Rep. Anna Eshoo and San Mateo County supervisor Rich Gordon last Friday about the announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s pick for the job of vice president.

There’s been a media storm about Palin’s credentials, McCain’s vetting process and the news that the governor’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Then the storm broke last night with Palin’s powerful, if rather snide, speech before the Republican National Convention, which sent a jolt of energy through the party and caused chants of “Drill, baby, drill!” (the Republicans sure have a sophisticated take on energy policy, don’t they?) to bounce off the walls of St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

Now a new media cycle begins, and the Democrats aren’t likely to underestimate Palin any longer. We’ll be getting a fresh perspective from local Democrats and Republicans in the next couple days. In the meantime, here, from Saturday’s print edition of the Insider, is what Eshoo and Gordon had to say when the pick was first made public

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was just as thunderstruck as many Americans by McCain’s choice of Palin.

Using words like “bizarre” and “startling,” Eshoo said McCain’s surprise pick showed that the GOP is a “panicked party” right now. It also reminded her of Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“He hit McCain squarely on temperament and choices,” said Eshoo, who is pictured below, “and you see today the baffling, baffling choice in terms of his judgment for the person who would be a heartbeat from the Oval Office.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo

Republicans swarmed cable news broadcasts last Friday, spinning the choice of Palin as a bold stroke that restores McCain’s faded maverick image, endears him to fundamentalist voters, appeals to women and blunts Obama’s power as a once-in-a-lifetime candidate.

But the McCain camp has yet to come up with a compelling argument for Palin in the key area of national security, an issue that’s been the center of gravity for his campaign. (The arguments that Palin is in charge of the Alaska National Guard, except when it’s deployed overseas, and that Alaska is close to Russia haven’t cut it.)

With the country facing, in McCain’s view, multiple international crises that threaten America’s existence, from Islamic terrorists to Iran and Russia’s recent muscle-flexing in Georgia, he now asks voters to accept the premise that a two-year governor in a sparsely populated state, someone whose knowledge of foreign affairs appears to be paper-thin, is ready to become commander in chief if McCain, 72, should fall ill.

“In plain English, I think it’s a disaster for them,” Eshoo said last week.

Gordon, who joined Eshoo in Denver last week as a member of the California delegation, said last Friday that Palin was “a strange pick.”

County Supervisor Rich Gordon hugs Rep. Anna Eshoo last month at his wedding shower.

“If he thinks that that pick is going to draw women who supported Hillary Clinton, I think he’s terribly wrong and made a huge mistake,” said Gordon, pictured above getting a hug from Eshoo at his wedding shower in July.

Women won’t just vote for someone because they’re female, he said. They’ll look at the issues, including Palin’s strong pro-life stance.

The Insider tried to reach several Republicans for their perspective on Friday, but we were unsuccessful.

Catherine Brinkman, a Republican who is running for state Assembly in District 19, did not get back to us.

Our attempt to reach Karen King, chair of the county Republican Party, was a window into the state of the local GOP. Although the headquarters lists a separate fax line, the main number for the party office gave off a fax signal every time we tried it Friday afternoon.

When we called the fax number, just for kicks, we got a voice message for a local photography business. And an e-mail to the address listed on the Web site was kicked back as undeliverable.

Greg Conlon, who is challenging Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, for a seat in Congress, was not able to respond to us in time for the print edition, but we got an e-mail from him Saturday.

“I believe it is great to have a young woman on the ticket who has to also be considered her own woman,” Conlon said of Palin, “because she won as a woman when (Alaska) was going through a Republican scandal, that she was not part of, and won as someone who was willing to take on the oil companies for the oil spill damages.”

Palin also “will make it difficult for the Hillary Clinton supporters to not vote for a women who is up to taking on the establishment and winning,” Conlon added.

Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, Rich Gordon, San Mateo County | 2 Comments »

The Speier and Eshoo update

Before Jackie Speier learned about the handiness of the bicycle rickshaw, she wore out her feet Monday trekking from one event to the next in downtown Denver. She estimates she walked six miles that day, much of it in high heels. She was eventually forced to stop and buy a pair of flats to ease the pain.

John Kerry spoke at a delegates breakfast Wednesday morning and tore the roof off with a speech that was very much like the one he delivered later that day at the Pepsi Center. Speier said the speech reinforced her opinion that John McCain is an “extremist,” from foreign policy to abortion, and not a maverick.

At a lunch hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer later that day and put on by none another than local Democratic Party insider Joe Cotchett, California’s junior senator regaled the crowd with stories of her interactions with McCain when she first got to Washington in 1992.

Boxer recalled seeing flashes of McCain’s anger on more than one occasion, said Speier, who like Barack Obama himself Thursday night questioned whether McCain has the temperament to be a steady commander in chief.

“The question I would ask is, do we really want someone like that holding on to the red phone?” said Speier.

Speier wanted to see her fellow Democrats go on the offensive against McCain during the convention. Rep. Anna Eshoo had a different approach, warning that bashing McCain too aggressively could produce a backlash.

“By the time the TVs are off with the closing of the convention, (voters) need to be left with the impression that it was thoughtful,” Eshoo said. “This is not about (a) bumper sticker mentality. That’s what the Republicans like to do, but that’s not enough. It’s about the future of our country.”

Nevertheless, Eshoo predicted Wednesday, by the end of the convention, “The lines will have been drawn.”

We’re trying to check in with both Speier and Eshoo today to see if the final 24 hours of the convention lived up to their expectations.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Speier and Eshoo in Denver

[Update: We were snowed under Thursday. We'll have a full account from Speier and Eshoo, as well as San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, on Friday. Apologies for the delay.]

We talked Wednesday afternoon to both Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, who shared their thoughts on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s speech Tuesday night, among other subjects.

What else did they talk about? Speier mentioned some interesting remarks that Sen. Barbara Boxer made about John McCain, while Eshoo offered up a vision for a successful finish to the Democratic National Convention that keeps McCain bashing to a minimum.

Check back here Thursday morning for more on those subject and few others.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Jackie Speier, Political Campaigns, Republican Party, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Swanky Speier

carolands-2.jpg

Mr. and Mrs. Insider paid a visit to the Carolands Chateau on Friday, at the invitation of Burlingame attorney Joe Cotchett, to attend a campaign party he threw for former state Sen. Jackie Speier, who is running for the congressional seat occupied by Rep. Tom Lantos until he died in February.

Roughly 100 to 150 people circulated around the second-floor of the mansion — which is a succession of rooms off a central atrium — sipping white wine and cocktails (no red wine allowed, for fear of stains) and munching on hors d’oeuvres.

Among those the Insider spotted at the party: San Mateo County Supervisors Mark Church and Adrienne Tissier; San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer; former county sheriff, and current member of the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors, Don Horsley; and Robert Foucrault, the county coroner.

Speier herself, wearing a red dress with a black sash, posed for photographs with supporters in the chateau’s ridiculous wood-paneled library. Sometime after 7 p.m., guests were ushered into the ballroom for the evening’s presentation.

Cotchett spoke first, thanking the chateau’s owners, Ann and Charles Johnson (who bought the estate in 1998 and spent millions refurbishing it). He said the Johnsons were “equal opportunity employers,” since they hosted a Republican fundraiser with President Bush in late January in the exact same room.

Cotchett then introduced the emcee for the night, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who interrupted a tour hawking his memoir, “Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times,” to be there for Speier, a friend and colleague from their years together in the state legislature.

Brown said he owed many votes on “family values” issues to Speier, who would cast his votes for him when he was absent from the state Assembly. The Insider isn’t sure whether he was being serious, or if the practice he described is legal, but there you have it.

Brown also joked about being mortified that he was selling his books at Wal-Mart, which has become a major book retailer that helps authors get on best-seller lists, and encouraged anyone in the audience not to attend a book signing held at one of the stores.

Standing as he was within one of the Peninsula’s symbolic seats of wealth and power, Brown may have forgotten that tens of millions of Democratic voters nationwide shop at Wal-Mart because it’s what they can afford. That Willie Brown is a real champion of the working class, isn’t he?

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, also took a turn at the microphone before Brown turned the stage over to the evening’s main attraction, celebrated actress and singer Carol Channing.

As a member of Generation X, the Insider is not overly familiar with Channing’s oeuvre, but the stories and impressions from early in her career were pretty funny; and the fact that she’s still performing at the age of 87 is impressive.

One thought that came to mind following the party was that Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig proved how smart a guy he is by deciding not to enter the race against Speier, despite the pleas of online supporters.

Because the roster of Jackie-ites Friday in Hillsborough was further evidence that whoever steps in front of the Speier juggernaut this spring will be squashed like a bug.

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, Aaron Kinney, Adrienne Tissier, Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Board of Supervisors, Coroner, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Mark Church, San Mateo County, Tom Lantos | No Comments »