The June Democratic primary race for Republican Rep. Robert Lagomarsino's seat may include two probable candidates--neither of whom has ever held elective office.
Anita Perez Ferguson, 40, of Santa Barbara, who declared her possible candidacy late last year, may face primary opposition from Mike McConnell, 43, of Ventura.
"That makes it all more interesting," said Ferguson, who previously had thought she would run unopposed.
Both candidates have said they plan to file their declarations of intent to become candidates after the filing period opens Monday.
McConnell said he plans to make a public declaration of his candidacy on Feb. 12, the first day final declarations of candidacy may be filed. Ferguson said she is reserving any formal announcements, although she has said only a catastrophic family illness could stop her candidacy.
Both candidates will face a rough, uphill battle to unseat Lagomarsino, they said. The well-entrenched conservative defeated state Sen. Gary Hart (D-Santa Barbara) two years ago in a campaign marked by heavy spending on both sides.
Hart announced that he would not run against Lagomarsino in 1990. Many politicians think Hart will run for Congress in 1992, when he would not have to give up his Senate seat.
Both candidates claim to have found solid support within the Democratic Party. Although Hart has endorsed neither candidate, Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) said he plans to endorse Ferguson.
"She is bright and very articulate and charming," O'Connell said. "She will be able to raise issues to be debated on a national level."
Ferguson worked as a field representative in Hart's Santa Barbara office for three years.
She is the chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus for the National Women's Political Caucus and a member of the Santa Barbara County Affirmative Action Commission.
McConnell, a construction manager with Waste Management at the Simi Valley landfill, said he has worked with children as a coach and has been active in Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The 25-year Ventura resident said he has been active for 20 years in local politics as a campaign worker and organizer.
He is committed to the environment, he said.
"I have to be. I build landfills for a living," he said. "Otherwise I would have to apologize for what I do."
He said his main campaign platform will be national health insurance.
"People are dying right here in Ventura County, and it's costing them everything they have to die," he said.
Ferguson said her campaign issues are less well defined.
"The issues of the campaign are yet to be determined," she said. She would like to see the quality of education enhanced, support for small businesses and planned growth. She considers herself an environmentalist.
Raising funds for a campaign against Lagomarsino will be the toughest challenge for either candidate, area politicians say.
Hart, already an incumbent with a strong following, raised more than $1.5 million to run against Lagomarsino and narrowly lost.
Ferguson said she would not expect to raise one-quarter of that amount.
"What's needed is good community organization," she said.
McConnell said his primary campaign is already well-financed. He already has printed 1,000 lawn signs and bumper stickers, he said. He has 10,000 fliers he plans to pass out door-to-door.
He will worry about the November election if he gets that far, he said.