The political scales have tipped in Ventura County's new congressional district, with more Democrats now registered to vote than Republicans, according to registration figures released Wednesday.
The new data shows that the Democrats now have the edge: 42.9%, or 115,619 registered voters, compared to 42.7%, or 115,096 Republican voters, for the district that encompasses all of Ventura County except for most of Thousand Oaks.
The Ventura County voter registration figures do not include Carpinteria, which is also in the 23rd Congressional District. But the Santa Barbara County registrar of voters reported earlier that Democrats had the advantage there too. As of mid-August, Carpinteria had 3,046 Democratic voters compared to 2,503 Republicans.
The 23rd Congressional District is the arena for a fierce general election battle between the incumbent, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), and the Democratic challenger, Anita Perez Ferguson of Oxnard.
Democratic strategists say their slight advantage is the product of a registration drive the party mounted this year in Ventura County, a traditional Republican stronghold.
As of the June 2 primary election, there were 113,598 Republicans in the district, or 44.1% of all registered voters, compared to 108,510 Democrats, or 42.1%. Two weeks ago, the margin narrowed to 43% for the Republicans, 42.6% for the Democrats.
Even though Democrats enjoy a slight lead of 523 voters, Republicans historically turn out to vote more frequently than Democrats.
Meanwhile, the Republicans' traditional registration drive has gotten a late start because of intra-party bickering between old-guard GOP members and new religious right members on the county's Republican Central Committee.
"Obviously we've got our work to do," said Chuck Jelloian, campaign manager for Gallegly. "These numbers are somewhat surprising. But the final numbers aren't in yet."
Sam Rodriguez, Perez Ferguson's campaign manager, said the new Democratic edge reflects Republican abortion-rights advocates "coming on board. That's what we've been targeting."