From obscure tax board members to the president of the United States, elected officials attract attention from the obsessed, the mentally unstable, and the potentially dangerous. And that doesn't include reporters. There are enough of these kooks out there that the California Highway Patrol has a secretive special unit dedicated to investigating threats against state officials and judges. Not too long ago, a CHP investigator reviewed the strange obsession one 55-year-old San Leandro woman apparently has with former Board of Equalization member and ex-Bay Area Assemblyman Johan Klehs.
The five-foot female in question was once Klehs' childhood babysitter, a distant acquaintance from the neighborhood. For more than thirty years, he was out of touch with the woman and her family. Then three years ago, Klehs, who was preparing to run for state controller, made a terrible mistake: He sent the family a friendly letter trying to reconnect with them. Rather than cultivating new political supporters, he accidentally attracted a stalker -- his former babysitter.
The babysitter allegedly began calling the handsome younger pol at home in the early morning and e-mailing him as many as 57 messages -- using the handle "Babysitter47" -- over the course of three days. Weirded out, Klehs turned to his lawyer for help. The attorney sent the woman, who then lived in Oklahoma, a letter warning her to leave his client alone. She didn't.
Instead, she returned to the Bay Area and began showing up at public meetings of the Board of Equalization with a video camera poised at the object of her affection. She started sending Klehs love letters. In one she declared: "I love you. I am hopelessly, madly in love with you." She referred to him as her "captain" or her "pirate captain," and invited him on a trip, though she warned that by doing so the "captain" would be risking his life. She showed up at Klehs' office and accused female staffers of having affairs with the boss.
During Klehs' final month on the Board of Equalization, the babysitter sent him her résumé (in which she described herself as having been a "domestic engineer" since 1969) with a note attached: "My dearest, beloved captain. By way of one of your crew, I learn that you are in search of a personal assistant; an individual who would care to sail into the sunset with you."
This was all too creepy for Klehs. Finally, on the advice of the CHP and the attorney general, he filed -- and was granted -- a restraining order against her earlier this year in Alameda County Superior Court.
It's enough to make a guy glad to be out of public life. But Klehs, who lost his bid for controller, is only on a temporary hiatus from politics. He's planning to run for his old job in the state Assembly, hoping to succeed San Leandro Democrat Ellen Corbett, who's termed out next year. If he wins, he'll be returning to the place he received his first threat, when someone threatened to shoot him during his first term in the Assembly. "These things happen sometimes in public life," he concedes. "It's part of the territory."
The flip side of the flipped-out constituent problem: When the kooks believe politicians are stalking them. Last year an Oakland resident sought a restraining order from Judge Julie Conger against her landlord, whom she believed was in cahoots with Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. Courthouse sources say the woman believed that Mayor Moonbeam would vaporize himself and get into her apartment through her shower drain. Judge Conger, who granted Klehs a restraining order against his stalker, refused to grant the lady in this case mayoral astral-projection protection.
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Usually, incumbency has all kinds of advantages, but Contra Costa Supervisor Millie Greenberg suffers from a bastardized form of incumbency. The Danville Democrat was appointed to her seat last month by future ex-Governor Gray Davis. And she probably won't be able to wash that Gray out of her hair by the March 2004 primary.
Even before her appointment, Democratic kingpins worried that the governor would hurt their party's chances of winning the supe seat in March against a Republican candidate (most likely Mary Piepho, an aide to Assemblyman Guy Houston). After all, the district includes super-rich places like Blackhawk, home to ex-Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring, and is populated mostly by Republicans. One week before Davis tapped Greenberg, a political consultant sent state Senator Tom Torlakson of Antioch a memo recommending that the "nonpartisan" board of supervisors, not Davis, appoint someone to the empty seat: "Republican consultants would lick their chops at the prospects of defining the incumbent as having been hand-picked by the Democratic governor. ... An appointee of the Democratic governor will be negatively defined from the start and will have an uphill battle retaining an already difficult seat for Democrats."
Memo to Millie: If you really want to show your independence, endorse Gary Coleman.
We the Peeps
Politicians are always blathering on about doing more for those revenue-sucking sycophants known as ... children. News flash: Kids can't vote. But that didn't stop glamorous columnist-candidate Arianna Huffington from stumping in front of Oakland Technical High School last week, surrounded by dozens of high-schoolers rounded up by a local adult-run youth group. The "rally" was a made-for-TV event and Huffington just needed a few warm bodies to fill the frame. As the pseudo-event was winding down, though, it became clear that some of the teens in attendance didn't feel a great passion for the guest of honor.
Bottom Feeder eavesdropped as sixteen-year-old high schooler Devon Barney, adorned with white do-rag and old-school Adidas high-tops, told his friends he likes Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I feel the man, shit," he declared. "I like his movies." Then someone told Barney that Gary Coleman was running. "Gary Coleman's running for governor?" he asked excitedly. "That's my peoples. I like that nigga." At this point, with pen and notebook in hand to make it clear a reporter was approaching, Bottom Feeder walked up to Barney and asked him whom he wanted for governor. The kid realized he needed to return to the script -- but he forgot his line. "I want that lady," he said, pointing at Huffington. "What her name?"
Sounds like your average voter.
Little Miss Mother
Pass out the cigars and hide the sharp objects. Katie Belflower ("Little Miss Murder," July 9, 2003), the eighteen-year-old Livermore girl accused of killing a rival, gave birth to a daughter this month. The daddy is her alleged accomplice, Michael Simons. Belflower's public defender told the Oakland Tribune that the baby is being put up for adoption, something his client had "thought about for some time." But Belflower initially told police that her mother was going to take care of her child. Maybe one revenue- sucking murderess was enough.
Raiders owner Al Davis is suing Oakland and Alameda County for nearly $1 billion. The jury is still out, literally, but here's what Davis could do with all of that dough.
* Buy a white Raiders sweat suit for every California resident.
* Put 7,575 new cops on the Oakland streets.
* Build two football stadiums in downtown Oakland.
* Purchase the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jon Gruden.
* Give an Xbox, PS2, and Game Boy to each of the estimated 1.8 million California kids living in poverty.
* Finance at least ten more gubernatorial recall elections.
* Provide lap dances for every NFL player and coach (except Jon Gruden).
* Subscribe to the Chronicle for the next four billion days (Sundays not included).
* Spring for a single jumbo dog, fries, and souvenir-cup beer at the Coliseum.
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