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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Schillo Endorses Long's Opponent in Primary Race

Breaching an unwritten rule of etiquette among colleagues, the supervisor has thrown support to conservative Mike Morgan, citing his similar vision for the county.

March 01, 2000|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a highly unusual move, Supervisor Frank Schillo on Tuesday urged voters to elect the opponent of Kathy Long, his colleague on the Board of Supervisors, in next week's primary election.

Schillo is backing Camarillo City Councilman Mike Morgan for the supervisor's seat that covers Camarillo, Newbury Park, Santa Paula and La Conchita, saying Morgan would add a conservative vote needed to stabilize the county's finances. Morgan, like Schillo, is a Republican who advocates conservative fiscal practices. Long is a Democrat with liberal roots.

Following an unwritten code of political etiquette, sitting supervisors traditionally do not endorse candidates in races involving board colleagues. Supervisor John Flynn, elected to the board in 1972, said he cannot recall another incident in which a supervisor endorsed a fellow incumbent's challenger.

Flynn, a Democrat who maintains a friendly relationship with both colleagues, said he believes Schillo's endorsement in the nonpartisan race was motivated as much by vendetta as by ideology. Flynn cited Schillo's ouster last year as one of two supervisorial representatives on the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County. Schillo was instrumental in forming the public-private partnership in 1996 to help attract new businesses throughout the county and its 10 cities.

Long and Supervisor Susan Lacey, then chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, engineered Schillo's ouster, Flynn said.

"[Kathy] really brought this onto herself by doing some pretty hardball political things to Frank," Flynn said.

In an interview Tuesday, Schillo acknowledged that the scuffle over the economic board contributed to his endorsement of Morgan but said it was not the only factor. He said Long is fiscally irresponsible and lacks vision on issues, ranging from her vote in favor of a botched mental health and social services merger in 1998--which triggered a multimillion-dollar loss for the county--to her support of what Schillo says is a costly plan to build a bicycle path across county farmland.

Schillo also accused Long of deliberately attempting to slow progress on his plan to expand housing for the mentally ill.

"I'm looking for a person who thinks a little bit more like I think in terms of getting things done," Schillo said.

Long said Schillo broke a promise made weeks ago that he would tell her in advance if he planned to weigh in on her race. She sat next to him at a two-hour meeting Tuesday morning and Schillo never mentioned his upcoming endorsement, an angry Long said.

His move was driven by a desire to control the board, she said.

"I feel he's looking for someone who's going to follow his lead, for right or for wrong, and I'm not going to do that," she said.

Long defended her efforts to be named to the economic board instead of Schillo, saying economic development is important to all supervisors. He had served on the board for years before she asked to take his place, Long said.

Meanwhile, she said Schillo was being "paranoid" if he thought she was against his plan to expand housing for the mentally ill. She supports an expansion of housing but thinks supervisors should weigh all options before moving ahead, the Camarillo supervisor said.

Morgan, who did not know about the endorsement until receiving a call from a reporter, was overjoyed.

"All right!" he said. "That makes me feel good. He needs someone to help with teamwork, and I think I can help him bring some stability back to the county."

The falling out between Schillo and Long underscores former County Chief Administrator David L. Baker's comments late last year that the Board of Supervisors is so divided it cannot work well together. Baker quit in November after only four days on the job, leaving behind a long list of concerns about the county's financial health and organizational dysfunction.

Since then, board members have made a concerted effort to get along publicly, often voting unanimously on financial and other issues. But the feud between Schillo and Long continued to simmer quietly.

Long's decision to keep Schillo off the economic board shows that the first-term incumbent still has some political lessons to learn, Flynn said. Although Schillo was ultimately renamed to the economic collaborative after Supervisor Judy Mikels gave up her spot to him, the slight was not forgotten, Flynn said.

"It was the kind of politics you'd find in Washington when Newt Gingrich was speaker, not the kind of politics we play here in Ventura," Flynn said.

Mikels, who is challenging Assemblyman Tom McClintock of Northridge for the Republican nomination in the 19th Senate District, also got Schillo's endorsement Tuesday.

* LETTERS

Today is the last day that letters will appear concerning the March 7 balloting. B7

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