Rep. Brad Sherman often comes across as a nerdy, rumple-suited accountant type--which is, of course, exactly what he is.
But when his House seat is at stake, Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) suddenly displays a much different personality, embracing bare-knuckled political pugilism with Mike Tyson-like bravado.
This week was a prime example, as Sherman, a Harvard-educated tax lawyer and CPA, came out swinging after learning that ex-Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter was pondering a Republican run next year for his job.
Sherman, one could say, is already takin' this battle to the streets.
Baxter, who has made a different name for himself in recent years as a ballistic-missile defense proponent, declined through a campaign consultant to reveal the origin of his "Skunk" nickname, saying he was saving that tidbit for a future book.
But Sherman and his bookish friends, prodigious researchers after years of late-night cramming sessions, knew better. They unveiled an old magazine article Wednesday in which a fellow musician detailed the tawdry etymology of the Skunk tag--which, if true, is certainly not the kind of thing a political hopeful would want to trumpet.
According to the article in the now-defunct rock mag Creem--apparently the closest thing to official history one can find on the Doobie Brothers--Baxter earned his moniker while relieving himself outside a recording studio.
Baxter, who had been mistakenly locked out of the session, was outside just minding his own business--and doing his business--when someone inside opened a door, stepping into his, shall we say, line of fire.
" 'You skunk!' the [wet] one kept repeating," according to the Creem piece. A nickname was born.
Or so some would have it. Baxter's consultant, Dale Neugebauer, disputed the accuracy of the report, which the Creem writer acknowledged could be more fable than fact. Neugebauer declined to elaborate.
"I don't know that that is such a credible source," he said. "I would question that."
BLURRED BOUNDARIES: The city of San Fernando is surrounded by the city of Los Angeles' 7th City Council District, so it is not unusual for the lines to blur between the two jurisdictions when it comes to politics.
"We share a lot of residents going back and forth to do business," explained San Fernando Councilwoman Cindy Montanez. "Whatever happens in the 7th District affects us."
The overlapping of politics was plain when Raul Godinez stepped down as mayor of San Fernando last year to move a short distance across the border and run for the 7th District council seat.
It's a given: Los Angeles residents are active in San Fernando politics and vice versa.
So it was with great fanfare that 7th District candidate Alex Padilla announced Wednesday endorsements from four of the five members of the San Fernando City Council, including Mayor Jose Hernandez.
Council members Richard Ramos, Beverly D'Tomosso and Montanez also decided to back Padilla in the June 8 runoff election with Corinne Sanchez.
"These endorsements mean a great deal to me," Padilla said.
Hernandez said Padilla "has the integrity, the commitment and the experience to be an effective voice for our community."
Steve Gray-Barkan, a campaign consultant for Sanchez, who is backed by Godinez, said Padilla's latest endorsements raise confusion over which community he would serve.
"Maybe Padilla should run for the fifth seat in San Fernando, if that's where his support is coming from," Gray-Barkan said.
TAXING EFFORT: Assemblyman Tom McClintock wasn't bluffing when he promised to take his crusade to abolish California's vehicle registration fee directly to the people.
McClintock (R-Northridge) last month launched an initiative drive to place the issue before voters. And today he will unveil the campaign's honorary chairman at a news conference on the north steps of the state Capitol: Dan Quayle.
That's right. Mr. Potatoe head, vice president under George Bush, is taking a deep interest in California's tax system, McClintock said. It should be noted that Quayle is also a potential GOP candidate for president next year.
"He offered to help, and I thought this was a fine idea," McClintock said. "Several states have abolished the car tax. I expect it will be an important issue in the presidential campaign.
"We welcome support from the other candidates as well," he added. "I have made it clear that I will not endorse any candidates who support this mean-spirited and excessive tax."
McClintock needs to gather nearly 1 million signatures from registered voters by Aug. 23 to make the ballot. He has received support from several prominent taxpayer organizations, and believes the effort to ban the vehicle registration fee will resonate with voters the same way that Proposition 13 did two decades ago.
A leading candidate to replace state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) next year, McClintock said he is concerned about spreading himself too thin: He will fly back to his Valley-Ventura County district later today to attend a kickoff fund-raiser for his Senate run in Simi Valley at 6 p.m.
But, he says, he is a man of his word.
"Sure, I'm worried about [over-committing]," he said. "But a promise is a promise."
WORKING OVERTIME: L.A. City Councilman Joel Wachs of Studio City has lost another round in the running battle with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over what he claims is wasteful spending.
Wachs objected strenuously--and futilely--Wednesday to a proposal to pay overtime to DWP engineering managers making up to $93,600 annually.
The council voted 9 to 1, with Wachs dissenting, to give mid-level managers the same overtime benefits as managers.
Wachs said the move will cost taxpayers $300,000 annually, and retroactive provisions will cost $1.3 million in overtime payments dating back to October 1996.
"It's inexcusable," he said.
Wachs pointed out that the original cap was set after an audit in 1994 found that 468 of the 477 DWP managers making more than $70,000 averaged $4,500 annually in overtime payments, compared with $700 in overtime paid on average to managers in other city departments.
"It was really a shocking and widespread abuse of overtime, particularly among highly paid employees of the Department of Water and Power," Wachs told his colleagues. "They finally put on some limits, and now you are going to take some of those limits off."
But other council members said the city can't allow top managers to get overtime and not extend the same benefit to lower-level managers represented by the association.
By voting against the measure, all Wachs did was force the issue to be held over for a final vote next week, when only eight votes will be needed for passage.
ENCORE AUTRY: A resolution by state Sen. Adam Schiff to name a freeway interchange in honor of Gene Autry moves closer to final passage.
The proposal by Schiff (D-Burbank) to name the interchange linking Interstate 5 and California 134 after Autry cruised through the Senate Transportation Committee last week on a 12-0 vote.
If adopted by the Legislature, the interchange, which lies adjacent to the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park, will be named the Gene Autry Memorial Interchange. And it will be identified as such by signs facing each direction, paid for by private donations.