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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, July 18, 2003

Former judge aims for independent campaign Former judge aims for independent campaign (July 18, 2003)

LaDoris Cordell to run grass-roots campaign, not accepting money

by Don Kazak

LaDoris Cordell entered the Palo Alto City Council race Tuesday, saying she will run an independent campaign without asking for the endorsements of any current City Council members.

"I am not running with anyone and not running against anyone," she said. "I'm not running on a slate."

Cordell, 53, served as a Santa Clara County Municipal and Superior Court judge for more than 18 years until she was hired as a vice provost at Stanford two years ago. She has no municipal government experience and said she is running because she is interested in public service.

"LaDoris is a bright and energetic person, and I'm sure she will do well on anything she tackles," said Judge Thomas Hansen, the current presiding judge of Santa Clara County Superior Court.

She would treat council issues, like a jurist treats evidence in a trial, she said. "The key is to listen to everyone."

"I don't have any agenda," she added, "except to do things in a certain way."

Cordell will not accept contributions, intending to run a low-budget campaign using the Internet. She may print up some fliers for door-to-door distribution, but they wouldn't be what she called "slick campaign brochures." If anyone wants to give her money, Cordell suggested they donate the amount to a favorite charity instead.

Cordell is unhappy with the role money plays in politics nationally. She calls her campaign "another way."

"I'm disturbed by how politics is run in this country," she said. "It's about money, and many people don't like that."

Cordell is a single parent who has put two children through college, "so by definition I can't spend tens of thousands of dollars" on a campaign.

Cordell will seek one of four seats open in November. One of the four incumbents who will run, Nancy Lytle, also announced her candidacy on Tuesday and applauded Cordell's unusual approach. "It sounds like a very decent and high-ethics campaign," Lytle said. "It may keep spending down. I think it's a great notion."

Lytle told the Weekly last week that Cordell's decision to run for council was instrumental in her decision to seek a second term.

Cordell didn't link herself to a specific issue, but admitted a concern for how the City Council works together. "I have concerns about how things are getting addressed in the process," she said. "It's been described as dysfunctional."

One of her friends suggested she consider running, Cordell said, given the difficulties the current council has experienced.

As a judge, Cordell presided over Family Court for three years, "where, as a friend said, 'dysfunction is the middle name.'" Cordell was used to bringing quarreling family members together, "so I began to think about it seriously."

Mayor Dena Mossar, who is running for re-election this fall, disagreed with Cordell's platform. She believes the public elects council members based on issues, not on how well they work together..

Everyone contacted by the Weekly praised Cordell for her intelligence and creativity, but a few noted she can be difficult to get along with. One former judge said "her problems on the bench that led to controversies had to deal with interpersonal relationships."

Before Cordell decided to run for the City Council, she went to Stanford President John Hennessy to ask his advice - as vice president for campus relations, Cordell works directly under him. "I wanted to see if he had a problem with it," she said. "And he kind of chuckled and his first question was, 'Why in the world would you want to do that?' And he said it half-smiling."

If elected, Cordell would be barred from voting on any Stanford matters.

Weekly editor Jay Thorwaldson contributed to this story. Don Kazak can be e-mailed at


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