Termed-out Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval running for judge?

During the holiday season, it didn't go unnoticed that termed-out District 11 Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval was making the rounds at parties all over town. To paraphrase one City Hall wag, no politician goes to that many events unless he's running for something.

The folks at the Fog City Journal blog even polled readers last month as to what job they thought Sandoval wanted for Christmas. Most who responded guessed assessor, although a few also thought Sandoval had his eye on Congressman Tom Lantos' seat. With Lantos' announcement last week that he was retiring because he has cancer of the esophagus, it seemed even more likely that Sandoval would seek a gig in Washington. Right?

No, not right. Those in the know say Sandoval, a former deputy public defender, is more interested in running for judge. If you need more proof, look no further than his hasty "no comment" when we called and asked him whether he had designs on a Superior Court post.

Should Sandoval run for judge in the June election, there'd be an intriguing story behind his bid. You might remember that the last time he ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2004, he got a temporary restraining order against the masterminds of anonymous campaign mailers that reportedly featured an image of a swastika and tried to paint him as anti-Semitic. Despite the attack ads, Sandoval won re-election. Not content to leave well enough alone, he sued, among others, political consultant Duane Baughman (the hired gun Sandoval linked to the mailers) and a committee partly funded by Gap billionaire Don Fisher, alleging campaign-finance violations and damages.

Bad idea.

Baughman and the other defendants got Sandoval's lawsuit dismissed and then demanded that he reimburse their legal fees. Sandoval later settled with Baughman for $15,000 and issued a public apology; meanwhile, a judge ordered Sandoval to pay the remaining parties $67,500 for their legal bills.

SF Weekly called Baughman to see if he thought Sandoval would make a good judge. "All I have to say to him is 'Good luck,'" he said with just a smidge of sarcasm.

One other interesting angle: Should no judges opt to retire, Sandoval will have to challenge one of the 22 incumbents in the final year of their terms. No word yet on who that may be, but the smart money says Sandoval, a Democrat, would take on one of a handful of jurists appointed by Republican governors. Or the Sand-Man could try for a little payback: Peter Busch, the judge who threw out Sandoval's lawsuit against Baughman et al., is also up for re-election.

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