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Candidates Raising Funds Early and Often


Though still months before the election, Ventura County candidates are already socking away stockpiles of cash in races for the Board of Supervisors and state Legislature.

Records are being set four months before the November election in the 1st District supervisorial race between Ojai educator Steve Bennett and Ventura businessman and veteran politician Jim Monahan.

The pro-business Monahan and slow-growth activist Bennett have put together campaign networks tapping into each's core constituencies.

Monahan, who runs a Ventura welding company, has raised $177,920 so far; Bennett has generated $129,540.

Bennett took in $45,540 during the last reporting period and has $30,034 on hand to continue the fight.

Monahan, a Ventura councilman, received $116,920.02 during the last reporting period, ending June 30, and has $39,158 in the bank.

Monahan received a large portion of his money from developers, real estate concerns and $2,200 from conservative Christian broadcast mogul Edward Atsinger. Bennett was funded mostly by small contributors.

In the 3rd District supervisorial race, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kathy Long showed $130,123 total campaign funds with $42,123 collected during the most recent filing period. She has a cash balance of $26,491 in her fight against Camarillo's Mike Morgan.

Morgan has collected $26,295 for his campaign. This period he made $6,695, but ended with just $120 in the bank and an outstanding $7,000 loan.

The 3rd District includes Camarillo, Fillmore, Ojai and Santa Paula.

In the 1st District, which includes Ventura and the Ojai Valley, Bennett, sponsor of the growth-limiting SOAR initiative, has made a point of not taking contributions of more than $500 per person and taking none from developers.

Bennett received money from teachers, retirees, college professors and such groups as Save Open Space and Citizens to Preserve Ojai.

Monahan's contributions run from $40 from individuals to $3,000 from a construction company.

"We feel the fund-raising is going very well," said 65-year-old Monahan, who has been a Ventura City Council member for 23 years and was mayor from 1987 to 1988. "I've been walking precincts every weekend and have been getting an excellent reception."

Bennett, 49, said it was no surprise developers were backing Monahan.

"The big motivation there was I was author of the SOAR initiative," Bennett said. "So a lot of developers are bankrolling him."

Bennett won't take developers' money because he fears a conflict of interest if he's elected supervisor and has to vote on development projects.

To remain competitive, Bennett said, he needs to raise another $40,000 in the race to succeed retiring Supervisor Susan Lacey.

"If people continue to step forward we can do it," he said.

Supervisor Long called her expenditures "about average."

"I feel I'm on target," she said. "I have broad representation from unions, individuals and businesses."

She got money from a corrections officers political action committee, ranchers, individuals and $100 from actor Larry Hagman.

Long's opponent, Morgan, was unavailable for comment.

The most costly supervisors' race on record was the 1994 contest between Supervisor Frank Schillo and Trudi Loh, in which each candidate spent $254,000 and Schillo won.

In two local Assembly races, incumbents Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) held commanding fund-raising leads--Jackson helped by $10,000 from Gov. Gray Davis and Strickland bolstered by a $100,000 loan from Atsinger.

As of June 30, Jackson had $191,000 on hand, and her Republican opponent, Robin Sullivan, a Santa Paula councilwoman, had almost $48,000 in the bank.

Strickland kicked off his rematch against 1998 opponent Roz McGrath, a Somis schoolteacher, by raising about $277,000 and had $170,000 left at midsummer. McGrath, recruited into the race by state Democratic leaders, reported contributions of $73,000, with $20,000 remaining in her campaign account.

"It's early," McGrath said.

And in a race to replace retiring state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) had a cash balance of $128,000 compared with Simi Valley Democrat Daniel Gonzalez's campaign account of just $35. A loan of $100,000 from the Republican Senate leadership accounts for most of McClintock's edge.

Among the local legislative races, the Strickland-McGrath face-off could be the most expensive.

McGrath said she expects to spend $700,000 in her bid to knock Strickland out of the Assembly after one term.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) has targeted her race, and pledged to spend as much as necessary to defeat Strickland, who has risen quickly as a conservative Republican leader.

McGrath said she will work full time as a candidate until the November election--instead of splitting her time between teaching and campaigning, as she did two years ago in a narrow loss to Strickland.

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