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23rd Congressional District

Democrats Seek to Tip Scales in Their Favor in Challenge of Longtime GOP Incumbent Gallegly

October 29, 2000|BOB RECTOR

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) has been reelected to Congress six times. Handily.

A lot of the credit goes to Gallegly, who has a reputation among his constituents as a guy who gets thing done. He will point out that he has brought thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy, ranging from a new Simi Valley police station to airplanes at Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station.

It doesn't hurt that he has $1 million in his reelection coffers.

Why should this year be any different? For one thing, the Democrats are taking the race seriously, putting money into a contest in which they've shown little interest in the past.

Second, the man carrying the Democrats' banner is Michael Case, a lawyer with an agriculture background who has pumped more than $500,000 into the race. He has attempted to draw ideological differences between himself and Gallegly to gain votes in a district where the registration is split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

The Times spoke with Case and Gallegly recently about the campaign and their stands on issues.

Question: What are the principal differences between you and Rep. Elton Gallegly?

Answer: We have a general difference in outlook on issues overall. Mr. Gallegly has been a strong supporter of big business throughout the time he's been in Congress. And, while I'm a business lawyer who appreciates the current prosperity we enjoy, I think that the backbone of business is the working people and professionals who make it work. And I'm very interested in seeing that their fundamental needs are addressed: not only fair wages and safe working conditions, but access to a good, strong public education system, access to affordable health care, and a healthy environment for them and their children.

There are three related issues. One is what to do with the budget surplus, in which I've taken a different approach than Mr. Gallegly. And then there are guns and choice.

Q: Does your position on the budget surplus parallel that of Vice President Al Gore?

A: In general. I think we ought to take care of the national debt, Social Security and Medicare, including a prescription benefit, and get that set up first before we worry about what tax cuts to pursue.

When it comes to tax cuts, if we can get ourselves operating properly and can afford tax cuts that are targeted to the people who need them, then I think it makes sense. But my priorities are to take care of the other things first, and that's where I've differed with a Republican agenda that wants to cut taxes first and then worry about the other.

Q: You're running against a man who's won reelection handily on several occasions in this district. How do you think you're going to beat him?

A: Because I'm right on the issues. First, look at the district. It's 40% Democrats, more or less, and 40% Republicans. It tends to have politics that are a little different from the rest of Ventura County. And that same electorate has elected Bill Clinton twice, Dianne Feinstein twice, Gray Davis by 12% in '98 and Barbara Boxer, but by a very narrow margin.

And so your natural question to follow that is "Well, that's true, but it also elected Elton Gallegly during those same elections." And my answer to that is, "Yes, but the Democrats ran some fine people who were recognized, however, as token candidates." Those candidates didn't have campaign offices and staffs and only raised, at their best, maybe $35,000, and Mr. Gallegly spent in each of those at least $300,000. Plus he had the advantages of an incumbent.

Anybody looking at those races knew that the Democrat was doomed to lose. We are putting on a real campaign. That's what distinguishes us from the others.

Q: Do you believe you can reach out to the Republicans in the district?

A: Yes, I can, and partly because our campaign is premised on just talking about what Mr. Gallegly's record has been and what I stand for. That's an important thing because Mr. Gallegly, who was once relatively clear about where he stood, has changed for the purpose of this election. He's become very vague about where he stands so that voters might think when he talks that he is supporting their positions on the issues. And what we're trying to do is to clearly state for the voters where each of us are.

The two clearest examples are probably guns and choice. And so part of our campaign is premised on saying, "Here are Mr. Gallegly's positions."

If that's what the voters want more of, I'll lose. On the other hand, I don't think that's what the majority want.

Q: I presume you're pro-choice.

A: I am.

Q: How do you stand on gun control?

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