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Niello_2.jpgReporters and politicians are known more for thinking on their feet than dancing on them.

But it was the latter that mattered Thursday night when a dozen journalists and politicos took to the stage of the Crest Theatre in Sacramento for a ballroom dancing competition. Each was paired with a professional dancer to compete in the tango, foxtrot or waltz category.

"Dancing With the Capitol Stars" was a fundraiser for the Sacramento Press Club's scholarship program and a celebration of 50 years of journalism by Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton.

Bee columnist Dan Walters sat on the panel of three judges, handing out Simon Cowell-esque feedback after each performance. He told Assemblywoman Alyson Huber that her dance was "smoother than your re-election campaign will be," and told former Assemblyman Lloyd Levine that his moves proved his reputation as "one of the most slippery members of the Legislature."

Fellow judge Ron Cunningham, artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet, may have delivered the slickest dis when he told former Assemblyman Roger Niello that his performance was "effortless." As in, he made none.

The same couldn't be said for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who sang a spoof rendition of Frank Sinatra's "That's Life." Steinberg's out-of-pitch opening line was: "The press. What all reporters say. Like my ideas in April, tear them down in May. But a strong poll makes you change your tune. Putting me back on top in June."

At the end of the night, judges named political consultant Karen Skelton the winning dancer. She's the daughter of the LA Times columnist who was being honored at the event. And their family was a major donor in putting it on.

"Someone call the FPPC!" demanded one spectator, with typical Capitol cynicism.

PHOTO: Professional dancer Barnaly Pande and her dance partner, former Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, dance the waltz at the Sacramento Press Club's "Dancing with the Capitol Stars" fundraiser Thursday at the Crest Theater. Adam Gottlieb/Sacramento Press Club


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