Patagonia Inc., a Ventura clothing company whose support of slow-growth candidates has been a major factor in successful city and county races for a year, on Friday endorsed four candidates running for city offices Nov. 6.
Three City Council candidates--Scott Weiss in Oxnard, Elois Zeanah in Thousand Oaks and John Etter in Simi Valley--received the Patagonia endorsements. So did Moorpark mayoral candidate Clint Harper.
The endorsements, which will be noted in a series of newspaper advertisements over the final six days of the campaign, are intended as "seals of approval" that will identify environmentally sensitive candidates to voters, company spokesman Kevin Sweeney said.
About 60 candidates are running for council or mayor in eight area cities, Sweeney said. "I think it's hard for people to sort them out. The four we've selected are the ones that clearly have environmental records that are exemplary."
Weiss, Zeanah and Etter each have also received $1,000 contributions from Patagonia owners Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, Sweeney said. As a city councilman and a favorite in his Moorpark race, Harper has a greater ability to raise money, so he did not get a separate Chouinard contribution, Sweeney said.
Response to the Patagonia endorsements by a candidates who did not receive the company's backing was summed up by Simi Valley Councilwoman Ann Rock: "It can't hurt, and it may help."
But others predicted a possible backlash by voters who see Patagonia as an interloper from Ventura attempting to influence races countywide.
"My first impression is that they should be worried about what is happening in Ventura and not Oxnard," said incumbent Councilman Manuel Lopez, who is running for reelection against Weiss.
The outdoor-clothing company, whose political activism has grown as its sales have boomed since 1984, contributed $15,000 in slow-growth advertisements to three successful candidates for Ventura City Council last fall.
It spent $9,000 more on ads advocating preservation of open space before 25-year-old political novice Maria VanderKolk upset Madge L. Schaefer in June with a slow-growth platform.
Its four endorsements Friday are another attempt to make the environment the overriding local issue in the county, Sweeney said.
Patagonia backed Weiss for one of two available seats in the 12-person Oxnard race, because he founded a slow-growth organization there early this year, Sweeney said.
Etter gained Patagonia's endorsement because of his protests about illegal grading of hillsides near Simi Valley, his backing of oak tree preservation laws and his opposition to the controversial 750-home Jordan Ranch development proposed for the rolling hills of the southeast county.
In Thousand Oaks, the company has a track record because of its involvement in VanderKolk's campaign. So does candidate Zeanah, who headed VanderKolk's campaign this year and ran unsuccessfully for council in both 1988 and 1989.
In Moorpark, where growth is a key issue, Harper has refused to accept contributions from developers, and attacked his chief opponent, Councilman Paul Lawrason, for accepting them.