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CAMPAIGN 2000

Morgan, Long to Target Each Other's Backers

Supervisors: In addition to 3rd District runoff, Bennett will face Monahan in 1st. Flynn is narrowly reelected in 5th.

March 09, 2000|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Camarillo City Councilman Mike Morgan says he will go after Santa Paula voters disappointed by Supervisor Kathy Long's vote on city expansion as he heads into a November runoff election with Long for the 3rd District seat.

Long says she'll do the reverse, appealing to Camarillo voters who solidly backed Morgan in Tuesday's primary.

Across the county, meanwhile, the top two vote-getters in the 1st District race, Steve Bennett and Jim Monahan, each say they will scramble to win supporters of the third-place finisher, businesswoman Rosa Lee Measures, a sizable group who may hold the key to who replaces retiring Supervisor Susan Lacey in November.

But even as they planned campaign strategies for the next eight months, the candidates and others were assessing the message voters gave by voting in surprisingly high numbers against incumbents on the Board of Supervisors.

Long beat Morgan by three percentage points with 48.3% of the vote, but was forced into a runoff because she did not receive a majority of votes in the district covering Camarillo, Newbury Park, Santa Paula, Fillmore and part of Ojai.

Veteran Supervisor John K. Flynn was reelected to his Oxnard-based 5th District--but just barely. Flynn got 52.7% of the vote compared with a strong 35% showing by Oxnard school trustee Francisco Dominguez.

The results point out that voters have taken note of recent headlines about financial problems and bureaucratic spats within county government--and don't like what they see, said Herbert Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University.

"Incumbency still triumphs, but it's limping," he said. "Voters are feeling angry about the supervisors--that somehow they botched stuff. The public did get the message that maybe there is something amiss on the Board of Supervisors."

Flynn's win gave the 67-year-old former history teacher an unprecedented seventh term. His slight majority Tuesday contrasts with the more than 60% he has polled regularly in the past decade; it was his most competitive race in 20 years.

At one point during a tense night watching his share of votes drop as Dominguez's rose, "the alarm did go off," Flynn said. "But any time you get over 50%, you're doing OK. I'm very proud of voters for judging me on my experience and what I've been able to accomplish."

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With the primary over, candidates moving on to November began setting strategies for broadening their support and raising the dollars necessary to get their message out.

Morgan, who entered the race late, acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle matching the thousands of dollars pouring into Long's campaign.

Although he raised $20,000 for the primary, he only has $1,300 left, Morgan said. He hopes to raise another $25,000, but estimates that Long--who amassed $88,000 in the primary--will out-raise him by at least three times that.

Morgan, who drew his greatest support from Camarillo voters, said a bigger battle will be to siphon off some of Long's support in Ojai, Newbury Park, Santa Paula and Fillmore. He hopes to do that in Santa Paula by telling voters he supports their right to decide whether the city should grow and allow construction of high-priced canyon homes, an expansion that Long opposes.

Morgan said he will also court environmentalists in Ojai and Newbury Park, and continue to criticize Long for the county's recent financial troubles.

Long and Flynn were part of a split board that voted for a merger of mental health and social service departments in 1998, an action that indirectly led to a series of state and federal audits that will cost the county at least $23 million.

Long downplayed warnings by former county executive David L. Baker that the local government's finances are on shaky ground, Morgan said.

"It's still mismanagement, and there is no team effort there," Morgan said. "She's still developing her own agenda, instead of working together."

Long countered that she will run an aggressive campaign that emphasizes her experience dealing with regional, rather than city, issues. She also intends to make Camarillo voters aware of her work on the city's health-care district, a library commission and providing transportation for senior citizens.

"I intend to get out there and show voters what I can do for Camarillo," Long said. "I intend to win this race in November."

Just as important, Long said, will be the work she performs as supervisor in coming months. The board has already taken action to stabilize the county's finances and that work will continue, she said.

"In the next few months, because it is budget season, we will be doing even more," Long said.

With more campaigning ahead, Long expects to raise a total of $140,000 by the general election--the same amount she raised four years ago when she defeated Morgan by 8 percentage points.

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