County politickin’, southern style |

County politickin’, southern style

It was an interesting slice of Nevada County politickin’ Thursday night at the Higgins Community Center. Turning up were 25 or so hardy south county souls who thought Sue Horne and Steve O’Rourke might be more entertaining than the Bear River girls’ basketball playoff game down the road.

It was the League of Women Voters’ forum for District 2 supervisor candidates, and I was on a media panel along with Pascale of YubaNet. (Mike Thornton of KVMR was a no-show. Maybe he was checking out the hoops action or out with a bout of flu, which is what kept me from another forum earlier in the week.)

Pneumonia was a possibility on this night, as the heat didn’t seem to be on and people were slapping their arms to keep warm. Horne, the incumbent, was nursing a cold. She started out the evening hoarse and barely croaked her way to the finishing line an hour or so later.

But before we started, there was the meet and greet. First to shake my hand was south county businessman Lou Sans, whom I had not met before, although I’d read all about him in the papers. (He’s the guy that Lake of the Pines resident Bill Weismann went to in search of a hit man for his neighbor. Poor decision, since Sans instead introduced him to an undercover deputy, and Weismann is now doing time.)

Sans is a larger-than-life kind of guy who enjoyed giving me a hard time about The Union’s coverage of him. (“Why would Weismann think I could help him?,” he asked with an arms-out smile. “All that stuff in my past was 40 years ago – the governor gave me a pardon!”)

I hope he doesn’t consider it impolite if I say he looks a bit like Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” – a larger-than-life character with a handshake like a baseball mitt. (I confess I jumped a bit in my chair when, about the middle of the program, I saw him sitting in the back row with dark glasses on.)

But I digress. Sue Horne was stylish in a beige outfit, accompanied by her husband in working mufti (he’s a housing contractor). Steve O’Rourke wore a blue blazer with a sharp-looking, red-striped shirt with Chinese characters on the breast pocket. I guessed that it was his name, and I was right. A businessman who has lived and traveled in Asia, O’Rourke told me that custom-made, Egyptian cotton shirts are so cheap in Hong Kong that it’s tempting to buy 30 at a time.

Escorting O’Rourke was his son Jared, one of the most engaging 10-year-olds I’ve ever met. After taking a few photos to commemorate the occasion, he sat quietly in the back row and read a book during the forum. I’m sure he’d heard everything before, and besides, it was probably a livelier evening than being in a calculus class with his mom, who has gone back to school. (Then again, maybe not.)

O’Rourke scanned the audience and told me, “This crowd is stacked for Sue.” If so, a half-dozen or so O’Rourke fans (“Steverinos”?) made up for their lack of numbers by loudly applauding their candidate on several occasions.

As for the forum, it was efficiently moderated by the League’s Joan Lancaster, but all efforts by Pascale and myself to elicit revelatory responses with brilliantly clever questions were parried successfully by well-rehearsed stump phrases. The event was taped, and I’m told will be shown (or maybe has been already) on public-access television.

There were two amusing episodes worth noting.

One was when an exasperated Horne repeatedly tried and failed to get O’Rourke to admit that he was supported by the Rural Quality Coalition. (He said, wide-eyed, “I don’t even know what the RQC is!”

Another was when O’Rourke (pulling out a 2002 Bruce Conklin mailer with a flourish) expressed shock that Terry McAteer is backing the conservative Horne, since the county superintendent of schools supported the liberal Conklin in the last election! Thus proving that O’Rourke still has something to learn about Nevada County politics and Terry McAteer.

(By the way, for those who missed the game, the Bruins beat rival Placer, 44-37.)


We have a weekly straw poll question at the bottom of Page One each week, usually pegged to some news event, asking readers to vote at our Web site,

One of the recent questions was about whether Indian casinos should share profits with the state. We got some angry phone calls from senior citizens who wanted to respond to that question. They accused The Union of disrespecting senior citizens, calling us jerks because elderly and handicapped people can’t use the Internet.

That saddened me, because of course we respect our readers of a certain age. I’m no spring chicken myself. Seniors are our most loyal audience, and much of what we do caters to them. (And, yes, I know you are still mad that The Union runs the TV schedules daily instead of in a weekly section. But it’s not my fault; it was a money decision, and they don’t let me anywhere near the money.)

But as for the online poll:

1. Plenty of seniors are online; I exchange e-mails with them every day. My aunt, a WebTV aficionado, is 80. It’s easy to learn, there are classes for seniors, and computers are free at the library and I’m sure many other places. Or Web-savvy friends can “vote” for them.

2. The color strip at the bottom of Page One is a press registration line. Rather than have a blank strip, the designers of The Union a couple of years ago thought it would be a great idea to promote use of our Web site – hence the poll.

3. If we didn’t do the poll online, we couldn’t do it at all, because gathering and tabulating responses by hand is cost-prohibitive. Software does it automatically.

4. Nonparticipation in the poll is not the end of the world, because it is for entertainment purposes only. It is not a scientific survey and doesn’t necessarily reflect how people in Nevada County actually come down on an issue. In other words, it has no intrinsic meaning – kind of like golf.

Someday, I hope The Union can find a way to conduct a real Nevada County poll. Till then, our Internet survey will have to do.

Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears each Saturday.

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