Last week, San Diego County sheriff Bill Kolender announced he was running for his fourth four-year term. The 70-year-old candidate boasts the full support of the local Republican establishment, including all five members of the board of supervisors, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego mayor-elect Jerry Sanders, and, of course, the Union-Tribune, where Kolender was employed years ago to keep an eye on hard-partying U-T scion David Copley. "If it is the public's will, I will do my best to serve another four years," the onetime San Diego police chief told a handpicked crowd of backers in front of the County Administration Building.

But is he telling the truth? Insiders, including a high-ranking county official, say it's an open secret that Kolender, once a fixture at the Mission Valley watering hole Bully's East and famous for his appetite for fine food and drink, won't serve out his term. Instead, the scenario goes, he will secure the seat, then step down for a successor whom GOP stalwarts pick. The idea is to make sure outsiders, including Democratic and Hispanic candidates perceived as too liberal or independent, don't have a chance to make their case for departmental reform. Last summer, in separate incidents, deputies shot to death three Hispanics in the space of five days. After the incidents, the Mexican consulate asked for an independent review, as did the county's Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board.

The man most mentioned as likely to be appointed by the county board of supervisors to succeed Kolender if he retires midterm is assistant sheriff Bill Gore. An ex-FBI assistant director who later worked for Dumanis as chief of investigators, Gore signed on with the sheriff in February of last year. That move caused speculation that Kolender would retire soon to be succeeded by Gore, but a sheriff's spokesman dismissed rumors that Kolender would step down before the end of his third term, while declining to say whether he would run for a fourth.

As of the latest six-month reporting period ending June 30, Kolender had amassed a campaign war chest of $105,721, $46,152 of which he spent on fund-raising, netting $63,025. The biggest group of donors is closely linked to Padres owner and real estate mogul John Moores and his JMI Realty. In addition to Moores himself and wife Rebecca, others who gave the maximum of $500 included ex-Democratic state senator Steve Peace, listed on the disclosure as an executive with JMI, Inc.; Peace's wife Cheryl, an appointee to the state's Integrated Waste Management Board; and Peace's ex-aide and business associate, political consultant Art Castanares, as well as his wife Desiree.

Pumped up Now that San Diego's Sempra stands accused by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer of rigging electricity prices, the utility giant is probably going to need friends more than ever, and in Sacramento the quickest way to make new friends is by handing out freebies to state employees. Take the case of nine staffers for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, including communications director Rob Stutzman, PR man Darrel Ng, and advance man Jonathan Coors. Back in August, all were treated to a seat at a Padres game; price: $34 each. They weren't quite as lucky as Allen Solomon, district director for San Gabriel Valley assemblyman Ed Chavez, and Nora Gutierrez, a Chavez field rep, who went to a Dodgers game in September courtesy of Sempra; each ran up a tab of $120.76. Then there was Bob Giroux, legislative analyst to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, who took in a September 21 concert at Humphrey's by the Bay valued at $60. Cheapest eats paid for by Sempra during the three months ending in September were consumed by state Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish and two staffers, for whom Sempra paid a total of $28 for a July 7 meal at Filippi's Pizza Grotto.

Sempra also handed out some schwag in the form of what it said was an $85 Tony Nowak Original jacket given to California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey, who has been accused by the San Diego-based Utility Consumers' Action Network of having a "penchant for backroom deals." Millionaire Schwarzenegger was also given a Nowak Original. Santa Monica-based Tony Nowak, an old friend of the governor's, specializes in custom-made jackets for movie stars and other rich folk. "Each jacket is specifically designed for the bodybuilder's physique and is made out of hand selected, top quality woolens, cottons and leathers from around the world," according to the company's website.

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