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Former Migden aide takes down ‘Kiddie Porn’ blog

Daylight-savings time wasn’t the only thing that kicked in early this week. The San Francisco Democratic Senate primary race between incumbent Carole Migden and challenger Mark Leno is being fought like it’s March of 2008.

The race already features dueling polls, early endorsement moves and it’s first minor scandal. Even a conservative Republican legislator has been pulled into the fight.

That scandal moved toward a close Tuesday afternoon when blogger Michael Colbruno took down several posts in which he referred to Assemblyman Leno, D-San Francisco, as the “King of Kiddie Porn.” Colbruno worked for Migden for the majority of the period between 1993 and 1999, serving as chief of staff when she was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and her legislative director in the Assembly.

Migden campaign consultant Richie Ross confirmed that the senator asked Colbruno to take down the post. Ross also said that the original posting happened without Migden’s knowledge and that he himself 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.”

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 offered 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 Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, a noted child-porn opponent and then member of the Public Safety Committee. The 100-piece language was taken from a 2003-04 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; the federal felony standard is 75 pieces. Leno said his intent was to keep the felony from lumping people who accidentally downloaded one piece while viewing adult sites with serious child-pornography collectors. Spitzer said he wanted to address this issue by making possession of a single piece a “wobbler,” with a misdemeanor or felony charge up the discretion of the judge.

“I don’t care if it’s NAMBLA or Spitzer who came to him with the amendment,” Colbruno told the Capitol Weekly. “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 a conspiracy to pull 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.”

Meanwhile, Ross said that the Migden campaign has gotten the results of a Peter D. Hart Research Associates poll conducted in late February and early March. Like the David Binder poll conducted by Leno, they queried 600 voters across district. The Senate seat represents portions of San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties.

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-chairman Julius Turman said there was over 80 percent support for the measure.

For a June 2008 primary, the club normally would 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 also are talking with San Francisco’s other major gay Democratic Club, the Harvey Milk Club, about signing on to the resolution, he added.

Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at
malcolm.maclachlan@capitolweekly.net


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