When Ventura County Supervisor Maggie Kildee announced last month that she would not seek a fifth term, she said she wanted to give the public early notice to ensure a good field of candidates.
But with the exception of one of Kildee's aides, no new candidates have come forward. In fact, no new names have emerged in the last few months for any of the three supervisorial seats up for election next March.
Could it be that dwindling revenues, increasing budget cuts and the rising costs of campaigns are discouraging people from running for local office?
Some say it's a combination of all three.
"These have been tough times with the recession," said Kathy Long, another Kildee assistant who is considering a run for her boss's job. "Campaigns are also getting tougher and more expensive--and people are not kind and gentle anymore."
These are all factors she must weigh before deciding whether to run, Long said. She said she will have an answer by July 15.
"If there's a better candidate, then I would be more than willing to work for them," Long said.
So far, a total of eight candidates, including two incumbents, have said that they plan to run for the three supervisorial posts.
In Supervisor Susan Lacey's 1st District, which includes the Ventura and Ojai areas, only Ventura Councilman Jim Monahan has declared his intention to challenge Lacey, who is seeking a fifth term.
"I don't think it's a very popular idea right now because of the $38-million deficit the county is facing," Monahan said of running for supervisor. "Sometimes I wonder why I'm doing it."
The increasing cost of campaigning is also a large factor, particularly in Lacey's district, Monahan said. The district includes Ventura, which has three council seats up for election in November, which means that candidates are competing for the same campaign dollars.
"It's going to take a lot of money, and that is going to be more difficult for someone who has never been in office," said Monahan, an 18-year council veteran who has raised about $12,000 so far for his supervisorial bid.
"It's tough to get contributions when you've got people hitting you from four different sides," he said.
Monahan's council colleague, Rosa Lee Measures, earlier expressed interest in running, but last week declined comment on her campaign prospects.
"I haven't made any decision on that," she said.
Supervisor John Flynn, who is seeking his sixth term in the 5th District, which includes most of Oxnard and El Rio, faces two little-known candidates: Enrique Petris, a program analyst at the U.S. naval base in Port Hueneme, and Oxnard resident Arlene Fraser, who ran unsuccessfully against Flynn in 1992.
Flynn said he had never heard of Petris, but that he had talked with Fraser before. "She came into my office once," he said.
Still, Flynn said, he does not take either candidate lightly, and plans to start precinct walking soon.
"I consider every candidate a viable candidate," he said. "People make a mistake when they put their guard down."
Asked why he thinks more people have not entered the race, Flynn joked, "the only thing I can conclude is that we must be doing a fairly good job."
Kildee's 3rd District, which stretches from Camarillo to Fillmore, so far has attracted three candidates. They include Camarillo Mayor Mike Morgan, Fillmore Councilman Roger Campbell and former Santa Paula Councilman Al Escoto, who currently works as an administrative assistant for Kildee.
Kildee said she has been surprised at how little interest has been shown in her district's race.
One reason, she figured, may be that people are not aware that the supervisorial election is in March, instead of June, because of the presidential primary. She said if people want to run a serious campaign they have to start organizing and fund-raising soon.
"Because the primary has been moved up, it's not as early as people think," she said. "By late summer or fall, it's going to be too late."
As difficult as the job can be, Kildee said, she hopes those considering a run for office will also think about the satisfaction that comes with the job.
"It's tough, but it's also rewarding," she said. "The stress and the problems are only part of the job. You're also working to shape the county's future."
Kathy Long, Kildee's assistant, said this is what interests her most about the job.
Although she has never held public office before, Long said she is knowledgeable about county issues because of working for the supervisor for the past four years. She said she has worked closely with local officials on everything from health care to trash issues.
"I feel I have the ability to bring people together" on divisive issues, she said. "I'm still an idealist from the '60s. I believe people are the government."
Sherry Cole, an office coordinator for the Pleasant Valley School District in Camarillo, said she is also considering running for Kildee's job. She said she wants to take the next month to gauge her prospects among voters and to determine how much money she could raise.
"It's going to take a lot of money," she said. "It could take up to $100,000. I don't have that kind of money in my back pocket."
Still, Cole, a past president of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, said that the challenge of the job interests her, despite some of the financial problems facing the county.
"Most elected positions are in many respects both a heartache and a headache," she said. "You can never make everyone happy."