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Candidates Argue Over Qualifications

September 21, 1996|CARLOS V. LOZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CAMARILLO — In their first debate of the fall campaign, county supervisor candidates Mike Morgan and Kathy Long clashed Friday on issues as diverse as public safety and the quality of their political experience.

During a sometimes contentious question-and-answer session at Leisure Village, Morgan and Long highlighted their different backgrounds and explained why they should be chosen to replace retiring Supervisor Maggie Kildee.

Morgan, for example, told residents of the retirement community, which consistently has the highest voter turnout in the county, that 16 years on the Camarillo City Council has prepared him for the supervisor's job, which includes managing an $800-million budget and overseeing a work force of 7,000.

"When you don't plan effectively for the future, you end up like Orange County. You get more traffic congestion, more crime and higher costs and less services," said Morgan, 48, who has been a federal probation and pretrial officer for 20 years.

"I'm the only candidate who has served as an elected officeholder," he said. "I've had the experience of dealing with a lot of these issues."

But Long, a top aide to Kildee, said her experience as a small-business owner and five years in the supervisor's office give her a greater understanding of the needs of the diverse 3rd District, which includes the farm communities of the Santa Clara Valley and the suburban neighborhoods at both ends of the Conejo Grade. The sprawling district encompasses Camarillo, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Ojai and portions of Thousand Oaks.

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"The difference between my opponent and myself is that I have an understanding of the regional issues important to the entire county," said Long, 45, who worked as an aide to a Los Angeles councilwoman before moving to Ventura County in 1988.

"Camarillo is certainly important to me," she said. "It's where I have my home, family and business. But as a supervisor you have to look beyond those borders. You have to look at the other cities who also want you to represent them."

Despite disagreements over who is best qualified, the candidates have a lot in common.

Both are from Camarillo, which has the largest voter base in the district, and both have devoted much of their lives to public service.

They also agree on the key issue in Leisure Village during the primary campaign last spring: Both oppose the proposed use of the Point Mugu Navy base as a commercial airport for jet airliners. Village residents say noise from the air traffic would shatter the peace of their 3,500-person gated community.

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There are some areas in which the two candidates continue to clash.

On public safety, Morgan criticized Long for not supporting a local law guaranteeing that all revenue from a special sales tax will be passed through the Board of Supervisors to local law enforcement agencies.

"I helped the sheriff push for that ordinance because I know public safety is the No. 1 priority in the county," Morgan said.

But Long said she is a strong supporter of law enforcement. She did not say specifically that she supports the full pass through to agencies such as the Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office.

"Public safety is a priority for all of us. I want safe streets. I want my neighborhood safe," she said. "So I'm very proud to say I have the endorsement of the Ventura County Peace Officers Assn. and the deputy probation officers, because they see me as someone who has an understanding of their issues."

Long and Morgan emerged from a field of four candidates in the primary last spring to qualify for a runoff in the Nov. 5 election. Long beat Morgan in four of the district's five cities, losing only in Camarillo.

Morgan had strong support in Leisure Village, where he captured nearly 48% of the vote. Long received about 40%.

The two losing candidates were Fillmore Mayor Roger Campbell and Kildee aide Al Escoto. Since the primary, Escoto has endorsed Morgan's campaign, but Campbell has not taken a position.

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