Fear and loathing in California

Welcome to the machine: The Democratic machine, that is. Ethan Evans, director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, is the latest to withdraw from the race against Doris Matsui for her late husband’s congressional seat. Evans, who filed initial paperwork with the county registrar as a Democratic candidate early last week, had decided by week’s end to follow in the cautious footsteps of previously designated Democratic hopefuls Deborah Ortiz and Grantland Johnson. While America still may be learning what Europeans long have known—that family dynasties aren’t always the best way to go when it comes to politics—the fact remains that running against a congressman’s widow is hardly a recipe for political success.

“I feel it’s important that we participate in democracy, and with that comes certain sacrifices,” said Evans, who believes Sacramento needs to have a discussion about what issues it wants represented in Congress and that it “should take place here at home rather than in Washington.” But Evans explained that, for him, the cost of spearheading that discussion would have been too high. “The sacrifice would have been not being able to continue with my position because of the time constraints,” he told Bites. “I naively thought, you know, put the Superman cape on and go. And within three days I realized you can’t do those two things at the same time.”

So, who does that leave to go up against Matsui? Well, there are still nearly a dozen brave or foolhardy souls out there. Among them is bounty hunter, bail bondsman and perennial candidate Leonard Padilla, who will be representing the decline-to-state party. His daughter Julie Padilla, a former mayoral candidate, also filed to run, as did former Sacramento Kings ball boy turned lawyer Shalend “Shane” Singh, who will be on the Republican ticket. Charles “Chuck” Pineda Jr., who managed 6.4 percent against Gray Davis in the 2002 Democratic primary, will play the lonely Democratic-challenger role. And then, of course, there’s always the Green Party’s Pat Driscoll, who will join the Peace and Freedom Party’s John Reiger in reprising their roles from November (when they managed 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent of the vote respectively). In other words, expect mostly candidates who really don’t have a whole lot to lose—except one more election.

Feeding frenzy: Last week, while Arnold Schwarzenegger was sitting down with Sacramento Bee editors for a round-table chat about how best to “feed the private sector” and “starve the public sector,” the Los Angeles Times was breaking the latest story of our conflict-of-interest-ridden governor’s attempts to do just that. According to the Times, Arnold quietly has reopened a couple of private prisons, and Donna Arduin just happens to be on the board of trustees for the company that runs them. Arduin, you’ll recall, was brought in “on loan” from Jeb Bush in order to help Arnold starve the “monster” of state government as his Department of Finance director. Arduin reportedly took the private-sector assignment 10 days after leaving her public-sector-slaying gig last October.

Also unheralded in the local media was last week’s Associated Press story about a British judge refusing to dismiss defamation charges against Arnold’s spinmeister Sean Walsh. Readers may recall Team Arnold’s little pre-election controversy, in which a number of women claim they were first groped by Schwarzenegger and then slandered by Walsh. Last year, a similar defamation case was heard in California, only to be dismissed by Superior Court Judge Robert Hess. “We’re talking about the governor of the state of California here!” explained Hess of his refusal to make Arnold testify before his accuser. The British, apparently, have less respect for the office, so TV presenter Anna Richardson’s case against Walsh and Arnold continues for the time being. Who knows? With Donald Rumsfeld refusing to go to Germany until those pesky war-crimes charges are dropped, maybe Arnold soon will be declaring England his own personal no-fly zone.