In local races, Carroll and Simao know there's no substitute for pounding the pavement, especially in a race against Mayor John Callahan's machine. So last Saturday, after spam and eggs at The Borderline, they met a few volunteers and distributed those precious street lists, full of the names of super voters.
After a few hours of knocking on doors, Simao and Carroll returned to The Borderline for lunch. While there, Tony noticed some campaign material for other races, and could see a picture of Bill Clinton, who had visited the restaurant, proudly displayed. Tony decided to ask owner Chris Valianatos if he and Tom could serve coffee to customers the following Saturday. They'd get noticed while simultaneously helping the restaurant keep nasty caffeine addicts like me from going postal, early in the morning.
"Of course!" answered Valianatos, who told his hostess she'd have some help the following week.
Yesterday, Carroll and Simao asked the local party to send an email to its distribution list, asking for volunteers on Saturday and Sunday. Here's what it looked like.
MEET UP AT
The Borderline Restaurant
**** West Union Blvd.
Where Tony and Tom will be serving coffee
You will be with a group of other folks
Who want real reform in Bethlehem
The email identifies Borderline as their rendezvous point, but makes no claim that the restaurant or its owner endorses them. You could argue that letting them serve coffee is an implied endorsement, but many restaurants do that sort of thing. As long as it brings in business, that's all that matters to them.
Here's where things get weird. On Wednesday afternoon, while Carroll and Simao were working on their campaigns, Carroll got a call. A former prosecutor, he instinctively put it on speaker phone when he realized what was happening, so Simao heard every word.
On the other end of the line was a very angry Chris Valianatos. He may have been gleaming the last time he had seen Tony and Tom, but was a completely different person on the phone. He was livid that the two City Council candidates would send a "flyer" (it was an email) mentioning his restaurant.
According to both Simao and Carroll, Valianatos made these statements: "You fuckin' put my name on a flyer ... You put my business on a flyer ... I'm going to fuck you up ... You're going down ... This is illegal ... Callahan is my best friend ... Bill Clinton has been here ... I'm a good Democrat ... You fooled with the wrong person ... I'm going to take you out ... You don't know who the fuck you messed with."
While Valianatos screamed and cursed, Carroll was unable to get a word in. Eventually, Valianatos hung up on him. A few minutes later, Caroll called again, but it was just more of the same, with Valianatos hanging up again.
Simao told me afterwards that he knew running for office would be interesting, "but I didn't think it would ever get to the point of physical threats being thrown around." Especially from a restaurateur.
Was there some misunderstanding, or was Valianatos catching heat from the Callahan machine?
When contacted, Valianatos told me he had no problem with Simao and Carroll serving coffee at his restaurant, but objected to ther email mentioning his restaurant's name without his permission. "Now all the Blackberry people have it," he complained.
He denied stating that Callahan is his best friend, stating that he instead told them Callahan is a "frequent patron." While that might be true, FEC records indicate that Valianatos is a "frequent" Callahan contributor. He gave Hizzoner $3,700 for his failed Congressional bid.
Getting Clinton to drop in must have been expensive.
When I asked him whether he had made the remarks reported to Simao and Carroll, he hung up on me. I called back, and he told me that Simao and Carroll could talk to his attorney, and hung up again.
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to ask Valianatos who in Callahan's machine leaned on him, although it's obvious that's exactly what happened.
It's what's wrong in Bethlehem.
The rendezvous point has been changed from the Borderline to Perkins on Route 191. Simao and Carroll have just sent an email to everyone stating to forget about meeting up at "the restaurant whose name shall not be mentioned," but they mentioned Perkins.
I sure hope the owner there isn't Callahan's best friend, too.