Both Bobby Lopez and Neil Struthers have worn the union label proudly. Retired San Jose police Sgt. Lopez now leads the local Fraternal Order of Police. And Struthers, who is married to Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos, is the former head of the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. That doesn't mean they see the world the same way.
Lopez and Struthers got into a confrontation recently at the Starbucks at Almaden Expressway and Curtner Avenue. In a bizarre turn, they wound up taking one another's picture -- and not for friendly purposes.
A word of background: The Fraternal Order of Police recently funneled roughly $100,000 into the successful campaign to unseat San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos, who happens to be Nora's brother and Struthers' brother-in-law. Struthers has not taken the action kindly.
When we heard about the set-to, we called Lopez, who gave us this account: He was in a comfortable chair at Starbucks with a companion about 5 p.m. when he noticed a man in line staring at him. The man pulled out a cellphone and took Lopez's picture.
Lopez says he didn't recognize Struthers -- but in the spirit of the moment, he pulled out his smartphone and took a picture of the former construction trades chief. The two men then got reacquainted and had a candid exchange of views.
"He says, 'Bobby Lopez?' You're a piece of (expletive) (expletive),' " Lopez recalled. " 'You screwed my brother. And I'm going to (expletive) get you.' "
"I was amazed at the public display of anger," said Lopez, who said he stood up as the two men engaged in a bit of chest-bumping. "It was astonishing that he was that much out of control."
Struthers said he could not recall using the precise words Lopez described. But he acknowledged there had been a confrontation.
"We've been through four years of people talking (expletive), of people writing (expletive)," he told us. "After a while, it gets personal. I told him how I felt."
Councilman's mistake costs ally a job
This has not been the best month for Xavier Campos. First, voters in the June 3 primary booted the scandal-plagued San Jose councilman out of office, handing challenger Magdalena Carrasco 53 percent of the vote in the three-person race. Left to ride out his term through the end of 2014, Campos then accidentally kicked an ally out of City Hall by screwing up a routine vote.
On June 10, the council was deciding whether to reappoint union ally Hope Cahan to the Planning Commission or replace her with one of two challengers. Campos is firmly in labor's camp and has benefited from union campaign funds. So he voted to reappoint Cahan to what's often considered the city's top commission, in the first round of balloting.
But the council was split between the three candidates and revoted. This time, Campos accidentally voted for real estate agent Nick Pham, swinging the vote to Pham's favor and handing him the job starting July 1.
After realizing his mistake, Campos submitted a one-sentence memo two days later saying his written ballot was "mislabeled" and "does not reflect how I actually voted" even though Campos filled out the ballot. He asked the council to reconsider the item on June 17.
At Tuesday's meeting, Campos would only concede that his paper ballot somehow "inadvertently" wound up favoring the wrong person, but he didn't explain how it happened.
"That is my 'X' in the wrong ballot," he said.
The council voted 6-5 to deny Campos' request to revote.
"I'm not sure exactly what happened between this week and last week," Councilman Sam Liccardo quipped from the dais.
Cahan, a policy aide to Santa Clara County Supervisor and former South Bay labor boss Cindy Chavez who has been on the commission more than five years, was "deeply disappointed."
"I believe council member Campos made an honest mistake," Cahan said.
Ex-assemblyman gives his support to Honda
The last Republican to represent Silicon Valley in Sacramento has endorsed Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, in his bid for an eighth term, and is calling for other Republicans to do the same.
Jim Cunneen, a former assemblyman from San Jose whom Honda defeated in 2000 to win his first House term, said he's proud to support Honda over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, and urged other Republicans to join him.
"I've admired Mike for as long as I've known him," Cunneen, who supported Republican Vanila Singh in the June 3 primary, is quoted in a Honda campaign statement. "Mike's integrity and good character have served our region well."
Cunneen's endorsement of the liberal Honda isn't great news for Khanna, who like Cunneen before him has positioned himself as a moderate more savvy to the tech sector's needs. Cunneen now leads California Strategies, a consulting, lobbying and communications firm.
Khanna's camp was undaunted. Local Republicans who've endorsed Khanna include Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Dave Smith, former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal, former Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Roberts and Milpitas Councilwoman Debbie Giordano.
"Working families in the 17th District aren't concerned by insider politics and influence peddling," Khanna campaign spokesman Tyler Law said. "Ultimately, this demonstrates that the congressman has become part of a political system that has to change if the people, not the insiders, are to get the representation they need and deserve."
Former police recruiter is back on patrol
Sgt. Brian Misener, the officer who for the past couple of years spearheaded the San Jose Police Department's recruiting efforts, is back on the street after being reassigned to patrol, sources told this newspaper.
The SJPD has had difficulty filling academies with new recruits and keeping them on the force. Just 29 of 60 potential slots were filled in April, a historically small class. The police union blames city leaders for imposing pay and pension cuts that make the department less attractive than others.
Capt. Dave Honda, Misener's supervisor, said back in April that "it's hard to be competitive when the next booth is saying we can pay more." Or as the ever-colorful Sgt. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, put it: "They had him in Antarctica selling ice."
But Mayor Chuck Reed felt the department was not recruiting effectively enough.
Misener was unavailable for comment about his reassignment, and department officials didn't respond to a request to discuss it. When we wrote about Misener's recruitment effort in April, he said: "If they didn't think I was doing my job, I'd have a boot in my backside."
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Mike Rosenberg, Josh Richman, Robert Salonga and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-920-5782.