March 5, 2004
by HANK SIMS
A campaign volunteer's wolf whistle silenced the crowd shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday night. After quiet descended, Steve Schectman started pounding the balustrade upstairs at the Lost Coast Brewery, and suddenly it was official: DA Paul Gallegos had defeated the recall, and defeated it badly.
The hundreds of Gallegos supporters who had packed the brewery erupted in a deafening cheer as Gallegos gave a short speech thanking the people who had volunteered to work to defeat the effort to remove him from office.
"What we learned here, I hope, is if we work and sacrifice for democracy, it will work and sacrifice for us," Gallegos said.
The bulk of the DA's victory speech consisted of a recitation of Mahatma Gandhi's "Seven Sins." The crowd again exploded with cheers when he got to the fourth -- "commerce without morality." That was taken by all present as a reference to the Pacific Lumber Co., which had carried the finances of the recall effort almost entirely.
"It is truly our victory, not mine," he said in closing. "So, thanks."
With only 1,500 to 2,000 absentee and provisional votes left to be counted, the recall -- Measure F on the ballot -- was trailing by some 11,000 votes after the final tallies Tuesday night. It was an ignoble end for an effort that had dominated the local political scene since it was launched just weeks after Gallegos filed fraud charges against PL in February of last year. At the end of Tuesday, 30,716 Humboldt County citizens had voted against the recall, with 19,464 in favor.
But if Gallegos' stunning margin of victory was the most surprising result of the night, the county's turnout for Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen's aborted run for U.S. Senate was a very close second. Stoen -- who is prosecuting the county's lawsuit against PL -- received 1,185 votes from fellow Humboldt County Republicans, despite having actively campaigned for the office only one day in December.
Stoen, who was among those celebrating at the Lost Coast Brewery Tuesday night, said that Gallegos' large victory meant that he could finally run the office without political distractions.
"It's not back to normal -- Paul has juice," Stoen said. "He owns that office for the first time, and by gosh we're going to make it the best office in the state."
Supervisor John Woolley -- a vocal and active Gallegos supporter -- was the only member of the Board of Supervisors to turn out for Tuesday night's party.
"It's always good to be with a winner," he said.
Woolley added that he took heart from the surprisingly large majority that voted against Measure F, as it showed that Humboldt County citizens would not be swayed by the economic interests of a private corporation.
"In terms of the widespread margin, not only does the recall not stand on its own merits, it shows that a majority of the people believe that a major corporation should not be able to have this much influence in the electoral process," he said.
Earlier in the day, Gallegos had gone on a last-minute campaign tour of the county, starting in Orick and working his way down to Eureka. He said that he had met with many local citizens and had encountered a variety of strong opinions about his tenure as DA.
"The fact is that people have been galvanized, one way or another," he said before learning of his victory.
The Friends of Paul Gallegos conducted a massive get-out-the-vote drive on election day, with designated "precinct captains" for each region of the county. Richard Salzman, who managed the effort, said that the campaign had identified 11,000 solid Gallegos supporters throughout the county in the run-up to the election, and the precinct captains made sure that they all got to the polls.
Jaime O'Donnell of Trinidad was the committee's campaign manager for the Scotia, Rio Dell, Carlotta, Bridgeville and Hydesville precincts. He said that the Friends of Paul had identified 60 Gallegos supporters in the Scotia area, and he made sure that every one of them got to the polls.
"Everywhere we went the poll workers were completely amazed," he said. "They said they'd never seen such a dedicated organization."
After the victory celebration, Gallegos returned to the Friends of Paul Gallegos headquarters to field telephone calls from out-of-town newspapers.
"We're working on the principle that right makes might," he told one reporter.
Rob Flanigan, campaign manager of the Safety Yes, Recall Gallegos! Committee, did not return calls Tuesday evening.
by EMILY GURNON
Worth Dikeman and his supporters agreed on one thing Tuesday night: They accomplished their goal.
"We're all supporting you. We're all pulling for you," said Officer Rocky Harpham of the Eureka Police Department, who showed up in uniform at Dikeman's post-election gathering at the Carter Cottage, next door to the Carter House Bed and Breakfast. (Harpham was on duty; Dikeman joked that he was responding to reports of a rowdy party.)
The officer hadn't heard the latest results -- that the recall of District Attorney Paul Gallegos had failed.
"Well, we got more votes than the other two [candidates]," Dikeman replied. "That's what we set out to do."
Dikeman, a deputy district attorney who has worked in the office nearly 19 years, seemed unruffled by the news that he would not be the next DA. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the recall was firmly trounced, 61 percent to 39 percent. "We ran the sort of campaign I wanted to run, and we're very pleased with the results, pleased with the support," he said.
The veteran prosecutor placed first among the replacement candidates, winning 56 percent of the vote. Civil attorney Steve Schectman, who ran in support of Gallegos, came in second, with 24 percent, and former prosecutor Gloria Albin Sheets garnered just short of 13 percent.
Dikeman's wife, civil attorney Geri Anne Johnson, said that, while Dikeman is very competitive, he has a thick skin. He would not let the result faze him. "The only reason he entered that race was to keep Steve Schectman out of that office," she said. "And he succeeded in that." (Schectman, the first to jump in the ring as a replacement candidate, has no experience in criminal law, and prosecutors in the DA's office were reportedly dead-set against working for him.)
The party was attended by a dozens of law enforcement personnel, Dikeman family members and other supporters. Until shortly before 9:30, the cottage, about the size of a large living room, was packed. Then, the news filtered through the group that the recall was going down. The crowd thinned.
Dikeman -- who refused throughout the campaign to say how he would vote -- revealed Tuesday that he cast his ballot in favor of the recall. He cited the story of baseball legend Babe Ruth, who, when asked why he made more money than the president of the United States, said, "I had a better year."
And so did he, Dikeman said. "Paul hasn't had a good year. Once [the recall] qualified for the ballot, I had an open mind, but there were some things I saw that distressed me greatly."
The case of Pedro Martinez-Hernandez, the Ferndale child molester who made news as a supposed example of Gallegos' "soft-on-crime" stance, especially troubled him, Dikeman said. "It was his reaction when the Hernandez story broke. This may not be Paul entirely," since his campaign weighed in, but "certainly there was an effort to cover it up. Misinformation was released." He did not elaborate.
Fellow candidate Sheets made an appearance at Dikeman's event, after having dinner with supporters at Mazzotti's in Eureka. "I feel fine," she said. "I'm disappointed for the people. I think they missed a golden opportunity to set things straight." Dikeman greeted her warmly. "Nicely done," he said.
Dave Walker, a retired DA investigator and former sheriff's deputy who directed Dikeman's campaign, said the recall opponents obviously "struck a note there in the general population," with the Pacific Lumber issue. Dikeman's wife, Johnson, put it bluntly: "The PL thing stunk," she said.
But Walker said that Gallegos still has work to do.
"I've seen four or five district attorneys in 30 years," he said, "and I've never seen a situation like this, where the district attorney is at such odds with law enforcement."
Dave Parris, a senior detective with the Eureka Police Department, agreed. "If the DA doesn't have confidence in law enforcement, and law enforcement doesn't have confidence in the DA, it's not going to work," he said. Gallegos doesn't work well with the people around him. "That's his biggest flaw."
Both Parris and Walker said they were confident that there would be a Dikeman-Gallegos contest in 2006. But Dikeman, ever circumspect, wouldn't say.
In the meantime, he's planning to do what he's always done. On Wednesday, he said, he'd be getting up at around 4:30 a.m. to prepare for his caseload, which includes three preliminary hearings.
"This is a great job," he said.
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.