Clendenen campaign manager calls ventriloquism act ‘political theater’

Fortuna ventriloquist Bill Thorington, the somewhat stilted voice behind sideman Clif Clendenen, called managing the apple grower’s campaign for the Second District seat on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors the “biggest challenge” of his professional career.

“Talk about a dummy,” Thorington said, shaking Clendenen’s head. “I’ve worked with sock puppets that knew more about the issues than this guy.”

Thorington said they tried running the real Clendenen for the seat, currently filled by Roger Rodoni, but after hours of instruction and public speaking classes, the candidate still sounded “uninformed, wooden and not completely human.”

Thorington credited Fourth District Supervisor Bonnie Neely with the idea of using a Clendenen puppet to run against Rodoni as political payback for the incumbent’s independent voting record.

“Bonnie was a godsend,” Thorington said, noting that Neely kicked off Clendenen’s campaign by assigning her own longtime political handler, Meghan Vogel, to file the necessary paperwork and put semi-intelligent words in the candidate’s mouth until management duties could be transferred to a professional ventriloquist.

Neely also made introductions between campaign staff and disgraced political has-been Richard Salzman, who helps produce much of the dialog for the act.

Additionally, Thorington said, the campaign was “indebted” to Neely for leaking county information to the duo so that Clendenen could appear better informed than he is or ever will be.

“That letter Clif suggested the county send to the Palco bankruptcy court, it looked an awful lot like the one the board proposed a couple days later, didn’t it?” Thorington asked, pulling strings in Clendenen’s back so that the candidate appeared to be winking and smiling.

When asked if it was appropriate for one supervisor to blatantly attempt to unseat another, Thorington replied without moving his lips.

“This is just political theater. None of it’s real. Besides, Roger dug his own grave. He should know better than to stand up to Neely or ‘vote his conscience’ or whatever crap he wants to call it. I can assure you the board will have no such difficulties with Clif.”

Former biased news reporter Estelle Fennell is also running for the second district seat. Insiders believe her campaign is unlikely to survive a primary challenge in June, when it will likely be revealed that Eureka City Councilman Chris Kerrigan is pimping a low-level associate from John Edwards’ failed presidential crusade to manage her campaign.

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