The race for the Oxnard-area supervisor's seat was ratcheted up a notch Thursday when the two leading candidates secured key endorsements from organized labor.
Six-term incumbent John K. Flynn received the support of the Service Employees International Union's 6,500-member Ventura County branch, the largest union representing public employees in the county.
And in a boost for challenger Francisco Dominguez's bid against the 5th District supervisor in the March 7 primary election, the Ventura County Professional Peace Officers' Assn. announced that it would back the Oxnard Elementary School District trustee.
"We were very impressed with his knowledge of government and how it works, " said Jim Schmitt, association vice president. "He is a fresh voice with fresh ideas."
Leaders of the association, which represents probation, corrections, parks, airport and harbor patrol officers, said their endorsement was based on what they said was Dominguez's commitment to law enforcement, public safety and the fair treatment of county employees.
The union's more than 200 members are paid less than their counterparts in neighboring counties, labor officials said, and the association is seeking to erase the disparity.
"We're not trying to bankrupt the county . . . but we're 26% behind parity compared to other counties, and that can't go on," Schmitt said.
Dominguez, 38, agreed that the union's members are underpaid, and he said his concern about that issue probably won him the endorsement.
"Without competitive wages, we'll lose them to other counties," he said. "It will just drain them."
Dominguez, who runs a nonprofit Latino advocacy organization, said he was proud to receive the endorsement, adding, "They looked at my candidacy and saw it as a viable one."
Leaders of the much larger SEIU said that they also regard Dominguez as a viable candidate and that they thought long about whether to again endorse Flynn.
"When you're dealing with someone who has been there 25 years, it's a plus and minus situation," said Barry Hammitt, union executive director. "John knows a lot about the county, and it's hard to tell someone like that 'no.' . . . But the minus is you know all their warts. You know what you're going to get."
The union's committee on political education voted to endorse the longtime incumbent Tuesday and announced the decision Thursday.
"People like experienced people and they know my record," said Flynn, 66.
He minimized the peace officers' endorsement of his opponent as the result of a dispute he and the union are having over some of its members' demands to carry weapons. Instead, he touted the other unions that have endorsed his reelection bid, including those representing the county's sheriff's deputies, firefighters and jail employees.
"This group is out of step," said Flynn, who will also face Oxnard activist Arlene Fraser in her third campaign against the veteran supervisor.
The peace officers' association previously endorsed Steve Bennett for the 1st District seat to replace Susan Lacey, who is retiring.
On Thursday, it announced that it is also backing Supervisor Kathy Long's reelection bid in District 3. The SEIU has also endorsed the candidacies of Bennett and Long.
Times staff writer Catherine Saillant contributed to this story.