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The Central Committee

Great Uncle John used to tote his gallon jug to Newgard's Store in Albion once a month to refill it with whiskey. In local election years he packed that jug to town every week.

One of the items that would drive him to take a snort this fall is a blurb recently released by an entity purporting to be “The Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee.” It seems odd this group would choose the moniker “Central Committee” because that term remains synonymous with the Communist parties of the Soviet Union and China.

This Mendocino County Central Committee appears to be nearly as moribundly power-centric as the central committees of Stalinist Russia. Here's the evidence: The Mendocino County Democratic Central Committe is made up of representatives from the five supervisorial districts. Districts 1, 2, and 5 claim a total of thirteen representatives. Districts 4 (essentially the Fort Bragg area) and District 3 (Willits, Leggett, Laytonville, and Round Valley) have a grand total of three representatives.

In other words this self-anointed power broker in Mendocino County politics can't garner more than a single person from the county's second largest city/town nor more than two souls from the city of Willits and the rest of the 101 corridor north and east through all of Round Valley. Readers might thus expect that “The Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee” would be sitting out this year's supervisorial election in the 3rd District or the Fort Bragg City Council race.

Take a sip, Uncle John, but be prepared to spit it up. The Central Committee has decreed that Holly Madrigal should succeed John Pinches in the 3rd District Supervisor's chair. And in Fort Bragg, with one Central Committeeman, Ric Martin, they have picked Heidi Kraut, Mark Iacuaniello, and Dave Turner for the three open City Council seats.

Apparently, no one in The Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee knows Iacuaniello well enough to spell his name correctly on their website. Interestingly, at some point this summer or early fall, Mark Iacuaniello was endorsed by the Green Party (who are capable of spelling his name). Somehow he became a Democrat in time for the Central Committee's endorsement.

Here's what appears to have happened at the endorsement get-together. The Dem's Central Committee doesn't just go by the recommendations of committee members in particular districts, so 5th District and Ukiah area Central Committee members essentially selected Madrigal. The Central Committee voted fairly close to unanimously to endorse the two incumbents (Dave Turner and Heidi Kraut) in the Fort Bragg City Council election. The vote to endorse Iacuaniello was extremely close, something like 6 for Iacuaniello and 5 for Peters. Jim Mastin, a likely Peters supporter, had to leave the proceedings early. The endorsement of Iacuaniello came, by and large, from Central Committee voters from over the hill who certainly can't be very well versed in Fort Bragg politics. Reportedly, at least two of the long time 5th District Central Committee stalwarts voted for Peters.

Why would Fort Bragg voters mindlessly heed the word of a couple of central committee men and women, all but one from outside their area? Because it's handed down as if from on high. This Central Committee would like the rest of us to believe that they speak for all Democrats.

I've been a registered Democrat in this county for nearly as long as Uncle John pulled a cork. I have never had a face to face conversation or received a phone call from anyone on this so called Central Committee other than Jeff Tyrell. The only other two I would even recognize on the street are Steven Antler and Patrick Pekin, because I have seen them while covering the Ten Mile Courthouse. Here are the only other names identified on this miniscule group's website: Judy Popowski (Chair), Helen Sizemore, Sally Webster, Mike Webster, Heidi Dickerson, Lois Lockhart, Irma Turner, Joe Louis Wildman, Cassandra Andich, Rachel Binah, Kenny Jowers, and Val Muchowski.

In a phone conversation, County Chair Judy Popowski made it clear that she would like to see more involvement in the Central Committee. Popowski stated that vacant positions in the third and fourth districts could be filled by appointment between now and the 2016 presidential election. At that time seats will be voted on by Mendocino County Democrats. This is probably dependent on whether the individual is deemed worthy of voting by the Central Committee.

Popowski sounded genuine in her desire to add new members. On the other hand, Steven Antler (also contacted by phone on Oct. 13th) got defensive very quickly when simply asked how the vote on the Fort Bragg City Council endorsement went down at the Central Committee. “Where's the conspiracy?” and words to that effect were repeated by him two or three times in a conversation of five minutes or less in which no one on the other end of the line had even hinted at anything like a conspiracy. “The lady doth protest too much,” comes to mind here.

As long as the non-involvement Popowski spoke about continues, this insular cabal will think they are the anointed decision makers. Either an infusion of new blood needs to come in and take over this stagnant committee or a more vibrant alternative group needs to spring up under a different name.

Even stone cold sober Uncle John might not kick at the Democratic Central Committee endorsement of the incumbents, Mayor Dave Turner and Councilmember Heidi Kraut, in Fort Bragg.

Then there's the endorsement of Mr. Iacuaniello. The Central Committee knew him so well they threw in an extra “n” and tossed out an “i” before plastering his name in their endorsement. As of the Central Committee endorsement, Mr. Iacuaniello had attended next to nada Fort Bragg City Council meetings, not a single Planning Commission meeting, and displayed a big fat zero percent interest in the Public Safety Committee or any other Fort Bragg City government meeting. Obviously, Iacuaniello/Iancuanello was just the man for the job.

Are you freakin' kidding me? Would any AVA reader write a recommendation for someone who had never shown any tangible interest in the job the recommendation was for?

There is a lifelong Democrat in the Fort Bragg City Council race. Lindy Peters campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 when he (Mr. Peters) was barely a teenager. That alone should get him a special dispensation from many of the members of the Central Committee. But no.

As reported here in the October 1st edition of the AVA, Bob Bushansky, the partner of outgoing Fort Bragg Councilmember Meg Courtney, appeared at a Fort Bragg City Council meeting in late September misquoting California election code regulations and implying that candidate Lindy Peters was merely a tool of realtor Paul Clark.

Peters successfully refuted Bushansky's false claims that night, but scarcely a week transpired before Peters' employer, radio station KUNK, received a letter demanding equal time for other Council candidates or removal of Peters from the airwaves until after the November election.

Anyone who has ever listened to Peters' early morning radio shows (he's been on the air locally for more than three decades) knows that Peters' program is filled with good and bad jokes, chats with the wait staff at The Home Style Cafe, music, and sports. Those who have been listening closely since Peters filed his papers for the City Council race in August can attest to the fact that Peters has not mentioned Fort Bragg politics on the air, even during local news spots. Peters has gone so far as to only state his own name at the opening and closing of his four hour show.

After the letter, signed by Ted Rabinowitz and Malia Elsner, arrived at the station, Peters contacted candidates Turner, Iacuaniello, and Mike Cimolino. All three stated they had no plans to contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ask for equal time. All three seemed to be unaware of the letter and fully aware of the true nature of Peters' radio show.

That leaves us with one other candidate, Heidi Kraut. She was aware of the letter and was considering asking for “equal time.” She later backed away from this request, but not before calling Peters an intimidating bully for daring to tell her (Kraut) that she might want to be careful what she wished for, in that if she did use KUNK radio air time to promote her candidacy then Peters would be entitled to use it himself in any creative manner that he, a radio professional, could come up with, right down to Colbert-like mockumentaries.

There is no clear evidence that any members of the Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee took part in the “equal time” letter, but those who did might best be seen as acorns lying underneath the oak tree. It appears that Peters is a very viable candidate, and the worst kind for the tight knit Mendo-Libbers who want to hold onto their tiny power base, the kind who thinks and acts for himself. What scarier being could there be for Mendo-Lib than a fellow Democrat who does his own thing?

Mendo-Lib wants to get both Heidi Kraut back on the Fort Bragg City Council and they want to lateral Meg Courtney's seat to Iacuaniello. Peters might easily defeat either one, so all that's left for the worst elements of Mendo-Lib is to sling as much mud against Peters' as possible in the hopes that some of it will stick in the minds of voters.

The next bit of chicanery came after a newspaper endorsed Peters' candidacy. Someone made up a Facebook identity, Tim Kaine (the real Tim Kaine is a US Senator from Virginia), in order to say, “Thought you weren't taking any [endorsements]. Confirms my vote goes to Turner, Kraut & iacuanello [the alleged “Kaine's” lack of capitalization, not an AVA typo].”

It is true that Peters had stated early in the campaign that he wasn't taking endorsements, but no candidate can stop newspapers from making public their preferences. Peters' statement was directed at not taking large donations or the personal endorsements of specific members of the Fort Bragg community. Readers should note that the 24-hour-old Facebook page of “Tim Kaine” made its own endorsement, exactly the same as that of the Democratic Central Committee.

From the ridiculous to the insane. The next slam on Peters stemmed from one Ed Oberweiser, who posted on the MCN Discussion List, “Lindy Peters is bad news for the ocean and our environment. He said during the candidate forum that he is in favor of a desalination plant and ‘mining the ocean for minerals.’ In other words fracking and drilling for oil.”

Probably the only way to correctly refute this bizarre, way out of left field, piece of shinola is to let candidate Peters' words speak for him. “The latest desperate attempt to defeat my candidacy claims I support offshore oil and fracking and urges anyone who loves the ocean and the environment to vote against me. Here is my response to a letter on the mcn list serve that made these false and slanderous claims:

Dear folks,

I was on the City Council when we developed an Ordinance to prevent onshore facilities for offshore oil. I attended every minute of the legendary 1987 Oil Hearings. To say I support offshore oil is almost laughable, but typical of the desperate attempts by my opponents to find SOMETHING to rally the troops against me. I am adamantly opposed to offshore oil. Let me say that again, I am adamantly OPPOSED to offshore oil. Ed, when I suggested the ocean has minerals, I was referring to ocean water! There are tons of trace minerals in seawater. If we could find a way to extract them in the desal process, it is a double winner. Why on earth would I want offshore oil rigs ruining the very water I want as our water source? Nice try though. These low blows keep coming. I support measure S. Let me say that again, I support Measure S!!

Vote for me and you will have an intelligent, effective OPPONENT OF OFFSHORE OIL!!!!!”

Mr. Peters said these kind of attacks are almost laughable. The key word there is “almost.” The Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee is almost a credible organization. They might become credible if they had more than 15 members or if they were infused with a lot of new blood, or if they and their named and unnamed co-conspirators stopped trying to spill the blood of fellow Democratic candidates. Mark Iacuaniello might almost be a credible candidate for the Fort Bragg City Council if he hadn't switched from the Green Party to the Democratic Party at the last minute in order to garner the endorsement of the next-to-nothing Central Committee. He might almost be a viable candidate if he had shown any public interest in Fort Bragg city government before September, 2014. Heidi Kraut has almost retained her credibility as a City Councilmember after her part in the “equal time” letter.

At this rate Uncle John ain't likely to cork his jug until well into November.

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