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CAMPAIGN 2000

Flynn Far Ahead, but Long in a Close Fight

Election: Runoff likely in supervisorial races as nine candidates vie for three seats. County's financial woes lead to mixed results at polls.

March 08, 2000|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Supervisor John K. Flynn held a commanding lead in early returns Tuesday in his bid for reelection to his Oxnard-based 5th District, but the top candidates in two other supervisor battles were in tight races--with a November runoff appearing certain in one of them.

Camarillo Councilman Mike Morgan was running closely in early returns with Supervisor Kathy Long, who has come under fire in the past year for financial troubles in county government. A third challenger, Jim Shinn, trailed far behind in the 3rd District contest.

In the District 1 seat being vacated by retiring Supervisor Susan Lacey, high school economics teacher Steve Bennett held an early lead over longtime Ventura City Councilman Jim Monahan for first place in the vote tally. Businesswoman Rosa Lee Measures was trailing.

Bennett said he was not surprised that a runoff appears certain and that he is prepared to move forward with the second phase of the campaign. "We are going to redouble our efforts and be ready for November," he said. Monahan said he is optimistic about his chances against Bennett in a runoff because he believes Measures' supporters will now turn to him.

"So far we have been divided within our own [conservative] camp. The Chamber of Commerce and the business sector have been split between us . . . Now the big hitters will be giving their financial support to me," Monahan said.

Recent controversy over the county's finances, however, did not appear to be affecting the reelection chances of Flynn. The veteran supervisor was holding a strong lead over school board member Francisco Dominguez and community activist Arlene Fraser.

In each of the supervisor races, the two top vote-getters will face each other in a November runoff if no one wins a majority.

Ventura County elections chief Bruce Bradley said there was typically low primary turnout, although it was higher than four years ago.

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He expected turnout to be 52% this year compared with 44% four years ago.

"From what I can see it was McCain and Proposition 22 . . . I don't know what else would do it," Bradley said, referring to the anti-gay-marriage ballot measure.

Bradley said the elections division also saw 5,000 fewer requests for absentee ballots this year compared to four years ago, when 66,000 people asked for such ballots.

Early returns showed county voters supporting Measure F by a wide margin. That measure would allow St. Joseph's Home and Retirement Center near Ojai to build a new $8 million wing on farmland. SOAR growth-control laws require voter approval whenever open space is rezoned for development.

Santa Paula voters were favoring Measure D, a $10 million school repair bond, in early balloting. And in Fillmore, Measure E, which would provide $7.5 million to build a new elementary school and repair existing campuses, was far behind. Both school bond measures require a two-thirds vote for approval.

In the county's supervisorial races, the nine candidates competed for three seats in a campaign dominated by accusations of mismanagement of county finances. Challengers to Long, 49, and Flynn, 67, seized on recent financial problems at the Hall of Administration as evidence that the incumbents should be thrown out for doing a poor job.

Flynn and Long faced only marginal competition until David L. Baker resigned as county administrator in November after four days on the job.

Baker accused supervisors of not fully filling him in on financial and organizational problems within county government and said back-room politics--sometimes orchestrated by supervisors--would make it impossible to solve problems.

Those accusations, and the weeks of headlines that followed, prompted Morgan, 52, to jump into Long's District 3 race covering Camarillo, Santa Paula and parts of Ojai in mid-December. With the late start, Morgan raised only $20,000 compared to the $88,000 collected by Long.

Dominguez, 38, who weeks earlier had said he would not challenge Flynn, also decided it was time to take on the six-term incumbent. Dominguez raised $20,000 compared to Flynn's $44,000.

Morgan and Dominguez each campaigned on a theme of reforming county government. Both said they would start by beefing up the authority of the chief administrative officer and centralizing decision-making in that office. Both men said voters need to know that sloppy fiscal decisions will not be tolerated.

But Joe Alvarado, 59, a retired teacher from Oxnard, said he voted for Flynn because he wanted to give him "one last opportunity."

"Flynn has a good track record except for the recent financial problems [at the county]," Alvarado said.

Fraser, 53, of Oxnard, the third candidate in Flynn's Oxnard-based 5th District, also criticized the incumbent for poor budgetary oversight. Camarillo businessman Shinn, 73, the third challenger in Long's race, pledged to push to eliminate the 3rd District if elected to save the county money.

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