Blogger takes down post calling Mark Leno

Blogger Michael Colbruno has taken down the post in which he referred to Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as the “King of Kiddie Porn.” Colbruno worked for nearly six years for incumbent Senator Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, whom Leno is challenging in a June primary next year. Migden campaign consultant Richie Ross confirmed that the Senator asked Colbruno to take down the post.

In other news in the race, Migden’s team released new polling numbers, a prominent gay Democratic club moved a step closer to endorsing Leno, and conservative Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, has come to Leno’s defense.

Colbruno outraged many in the Bay Area’s Democratic and gay communities with a March 4 post that rehashed Leno’s debates with Republicans last year over child pornography legislation. Republicans had put forth Jessica’s Law, a far-reaching piece of legislation that, among other things, created a felony for possession of child pornography.

Leno put forth an alternative bill, AB 50, that included the felony charge, but only for 100 pieces or more as drafted. AB 50 originally had no child pornography clauses, but Leno said he took an amendment from Spitzer to put it in. The 100 piece language was taken from a 2003-4 Carol Liu bill, AB 1499; the bill passed, but the felony language did not make it into the final version. Leno called 100 a “starting point,” later lowered to 25 pieces and then one piece. Leno’s intent was to keep the felony from lumping people who accidentally downloaded one piece while viewing adult sites with serious child pornography collectors.

“I don’t care if it’s NAMBLA or Spitzer who came to him with the amendment,” Colbruno said. “I take issue with 99 or 25 pieces of kiddie porn being smart legislation.”

On Monday afternoon, Colbruno intensified his attacks, saying Spitzer “tricked” Leno. Spitzer denied this claim and corroborated Leno’s version of events.

“I was angry because he assumed that there was somehow a conspiracy to pull Mark Leno in and somehow jam him,” Spitzer said. He said he knew Leno as “someone I could work with” and he had regrets about the furor that came next. “I really did approach Mark in good faith.”

All references to the Migden-Leno race disappeared from Colbruno’s MikeOpera blog on Tuesday afternoon. Ross said that the original posting happened without Migden’s knowledge and that he was not aware of the blog entry before it became widely publicized on Monday morning.

“We don’t want these kind of statements made,” Ross said. “This has nothing to do with the kind of campaign message we want to deliver.”

In terms of what transpired between Migden and Colbruno in recent days, he said only, “I don’t want to discuss their private conversations.”

Meanwhile, Ross said that they conducted a poll of district voters which shows high levels of support for Migden. Like the David Binder poll conducted by Leno, the used telephone queries to 600 voters across district. The Senate seat represents portions of San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted the poll in late February and early March, Ross said. The initial round of question showed Migden with a 10 point advantage, slightly higher than the eight point advantage shown in Leno’s poll. When respondents were read positive statements about both candidates, this lead surged to 15 points, Ross said. In Leno’s poll, rounds of statements about the candidates greatly increased his support.

Respondents also heard about the candidates’ negatives, he said, such as Migden’s reputation for being difficult to work with. These factors did not matter nearly as much to voters as the candidates records, Ross said. Migden did particularly well among North Bay voters due to her environmental stands, Ross said, such as her work to save the Headwaters Redwoods.

“I’m not worried at all,” Ross said of Migden’s reputation among voters. “When people look at her work product over her term, it’s impressive by any measure.”

In other news out of the race, the membership of the Alice B. Toklas Club voted last night to suspend their normal endorsement rules and fast-track an early endorsement decision on Leno. Club co-chair Julius Turman said there were over 80 percent support for the measure.

For a June 2008 primary, the club would normally not endorse until next March, Turman said. This would follow a process of questionnaires sent the club’s 500 members, as well as several meetings.

Under the current process, both Leno and Migden are invited to set up times to come speak to club members. The full vote on the Leno endorsement will come during the clubs regularly-scheduled member meeting on April 9. There was discussion of voting between Leno and Migden, Turman said, but club members decided to restrict the vote to an early endorsement of Leno. They are also considering early endorsements of several other local candidates, including mayor Gavin Newsom and district attorney Kamala Harris.

Turman added that there was near-unanimous support of a resolution condemning Colbruno’s comments and calling for a clean campaign. Leaders of the Toklas Club are also talking with San Francisco’s other major gay Democratic Club, the Harvey Milk Club, about signing on to the resolution, he added.

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