THE SPEAKER OF THE CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY,Fabian Nuñez, who had been prominently scheduled on the podium roster (his name was also printed boldly on the plastic pouch that held the delegates’ credentials around their necks), turned out to be a no-show. He was tied up a few hours west of the convention site at the ultra-posh Pebble Beach golf resort, where he was being feted by all the little guys from AT&T. Speaker Nuñez has been steadfastly defending the legislative interests of the telecommunications giant, which stands to make billions in a regulatory fight with the cable industry.
Party Chairman Art Torres, meanwhile, had been waylaid by prostate cancer. His replacement to chair the convention was none other than the legendary Willie Brown — the longest-serving Assembly Speaker in state history and the former mayor of San Francisco. At the podium, decked out in one of his signature Brioni suits, the charismatic Brown lapped up the adulatory applause and humbly described himself as serving nowadays as nothing more than a simple “talk-show host.” He forgot to mention that his day job is that of corporate lobbyist. During last fall’s special-election cycle in California, Brown pocketed several hundred thousand dollars as a strategist for Big Pharma — hired to head off a ballot prop that would have provided cheaper prescription drugs. “I’m feeling great, wonderful, never better,” Willie told us as he approached the podium on opening night. And why not? It’s his party, after all.?