Who's Left? 

Too bad the Democrats didn't field Republican Pete McCloskey against Pombo; Nacho to finally face the feds in Perata probe; RunningWolf's campaign manager found dead.

It's a shame Pete McCloskey didn't switch parties and run as a Democrat against Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy, the congressman in the cowboy hat who wants to sell off national parks, open up the coasts to offshore oil drillers, and gut the Endangered Species Act. The Democrats would have a much better chance of beating the powerful Pombo and taking back the House if they'd enlisted McCloskey — a lifelong Republican. But he's not just a regular Republican. McCloskey, who co-wrote the Endangered Species Act as a congressman in the early '70s, is himself something of an endangered species: the liberal Republican.

Yes, there is such a thing. At least there used to be. Shoot, by today's political standards, Richard Nixon's domestic policy would qualify him as a hippie tree-hugger — albeit one with a paranoid, authoritarian vibe. Don't forget, Tricky Dick created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act. McCloskey, cochair of the first Earth Day, was to the left of Nixon — which would put him to the left of many of today's leading Democrats. The point is, with his liberal ethos and Republican cred, the 78-year-old McCloskey would have significant crossover appeal in a general election against Pombo in the Republican-leaning District 11, which stretches from the Central Valley to East Bay suburbs like Pleasanton and Danville.

Instead, McCloskey chose to take on Pombo in the GOP primary. He got clobbered, of course, but he still captured 31 percent of the vote — suggesting that maybe even people in Pombo's own party aren't so pleased with their man. Last week, McCloskey endorsed Pombo's Democratic opponent, wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney. The real surprise, at least to Feeder, was that McCloskey comes off more like a lefty than McNerney, who was recently snubbed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for allegedly being too liberal for the district.

When a reporter asked McNerney if he supports Fremont Congressman Pete Stark's recently introduced universal health-care bill, the Democratic candidate cautiously stated that he hadn't had a chance to read it. He didn't even capitalize on the question as an opportunity to voice support for universal health care. Not so the savvy McCloskey. The Republican chimed in that it was an "injustice" that we don't have a national health-care plan. Afterward, Feeder asked McNerney spokesman Tor Michaels for clarification: Does the candidate support universal health care or not? The answer: "It's not a yes or no question for us." Arrggggg! Are these people taking speech lessons from John Kerry?

After the press conference, McCloskey described himself as being more critical of the Bush administration than McNerney regarding the war in Iraq. When Feeder pointed out to McCloskey that he sounded more liberal than many Democrats, he chuckled and said, "Part of that has to do with the uncertainty of the Democratic Party of who they are." Democrats such as Congresswoman Anna Eshoo from Palo Alto, he added, would probably make fine moderate Republicans. So why didn't McCloskey run as a Dem? No one asked him, he said, and, well, he never considered it an option. "I've been a Republican for too long," he reasoned.

Nacho Lawyers Up

Nearly five months after FBI agents descended on Oakland City Hall as part of the bureau's public corruption investigation of state Senator Don Perata, it looks as if City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente will finally be sitting down to talk with the feds next week. Why has it taken so long for them to interview De La Fuente, given that he's widely considered the Don's man in City Hall?

Nacho insists that he hasn't been ducking the G-men. He says that he's scheduled a few tentative meetings with the FBI in recent months, only to have the feds cancel, and is now slated to meet with investigators next week — a meeting arranged by his attorney. That's right, the councilman has lawyered up, the first elected city official to do so in the Perata probe. Still, the Fruitvale councilor assured Feeder he's not worried about the interrogation: "I have nothing to hide," he said. (Well, actually, De La Fuente does have something to hide because he refused to identify his attorney.)

The Express broke the story on the federal grand jury investigation back in November 2004. It began after an ex-boyfriend of Oakland lobbyist Lily Hu, a former Perata aide, accused her of giving kickbacks. At the time, Hu's client list included many of Perata's closest friends and largest campaign contributors.

When the feds arrived at City Hall in March, they reportedly asked council members whether Perata pressured them to vote a certain way on his pet projects, whether they'd ever taken bribes, and what their dealings with Hu were.

Just in case the feds don't talk to De La Fuente next week, Feeder decided to ask him a few probing questions. Nacho responded that he's never gotten pressure from Perata before a vote. He argued that the state senator wouldn't need to do so, because the councilman already is pro-development and thus wouldn't need his arm twisted on a building project. De La Fuente also said he's never told a company with business before the city to hire Hu as its lobbyist.

While De La Fuente has yet to face the feds, Perata's lieutenant in Sacramento has. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero appeared before the federal grand jury in Oakland. According to Romero's spokeswoman, Victoria Ballesteros, Romero was questioned for two hours. Ballesteros says the grand jury has directed Romero not to discuss her secret testimony — at least for now.

Silent Thunder

Some thirty people gathered at Berkeley's Ho Chi Minh Park — né Willard Park — on Sunday for the memorial of People's Park activist Rafael Donner, better known as Thunder. Among those shedding a tear or two was mayoral aspirant Zachary RunningWolf Brown. Thunder was campaign manager for RunningWolf, who says the 54-year-old's death "came out of the blue."

According to Emeryville police spokesman Ferdinand Suba, an employee of Bucci's saw Thunder sitting in his black Acura in front of the restaurant around 7 a.m. on Monday, July 17. Other restaurant workers came out and realized Thunder wasn't breathing. When police came, they noted that he was still wearing his seatbelt and that his passenger-side window had been shattered. Suba says the police report noted no bruising or blood on the body. "It appears he died of natural causes," he says.

City Councilman Kriss Worthington, who knew Thunder, says he's heard from the man's friends that he died of complications from diabetes. We won't know for sure until the coroner gets the results of a toxicology report in three weeks.

RunningWolf's campaign manager demonstrated a good sense of humor before passing away: He created "Vote for Zach" stickers using a cartoon showing RunningWolf spray-painting the word "DRIVING" under the STOP on a stop sign. As readers of this space first learned, Berkeley cops busted the bicycle enthusiast twice last year for allegedly vandalizing stop signs around town.

For the record, RunningWolf was coy when asked if he was really the stop-sign vandal. "I support whoever is doing it 200 percent," he sniffed. "Seeing as how we have global warming, it's not a bad idea."

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