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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Gage Says He Left Monahan Over Campaign Disagreements

September 02, 2000|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Political strategist Fred Gage, who abruptly resigned from supervisorial candidate Jim Monahan's campaign two weeks ago, said Friday that he left because Monahan disregarded his advice on how to win in November, failed to account to him on campaign spending and was very disorganized.

Gage said that Monahan's ignorance of Measure O, which would allow private hospitals to appropriate $260 million in tobacco settlement funds from county government, shows that the candidate needs a firm guiding hand if he is to defeat opponent Steve Bennett on Nov. 7.

In a Times article Friday, Monahan said he had no position on the highly controversial measure that is sponsored by a hospital in the Ventura-based district he hopes to represent. He said he needed to learn more about the issue before taking a position.

"I want to be kind to Jim, but, hey, he is no Rhodes scholar," Gage said. "What he said [Friday] morning I don't think helped him . . . He said he didn't know what it was all about. My God, the thing has been bandied about in the press and radio for months."

Monahan, a 23-year Ventura councilman, said Gage left his campaign for personal reasons, not because of any conflict with him.

"Fred had some personal problem," Monahan said. "I don't know exactly what all the details are. I do know there were family health problems. I don't know if it was him or his wife or his brother-in-law.

"And a lot of visitors came to his house to stay during the summer," Monahan said. "He missed a lot of meetings."

Monahan said that Gage identified himself as campaign manager, but he never was.

"Fred introduced himself as a lot of things," Monahan said. "I am my own campaign manager. Fred Gage was hired to do fund-raising."

But Gage, 75, who lives in Ventura but stills runs a Burbank communications company, said his resignation had nothing to do with personal or health problems.

"Why didn't he stand up and say we disagreed, and I quit?" Gage said. "But to stand up and say I have a family health problem, that's an outright misstatement."

Gage said he quit after two months of discord with Monahan, marked by the candidate's lack of accounting to him regarding campaign expenses. Gage said that, as director of the campaign, he asked repeatedly for a weekly update of contributions and expenditures, but never received it.

"I think a campaign manager should know how much is coming in and where it's going," he said. "I sent three letters [by registered mail] asking for an accounting. And they refused delivery."

Gage said he is not suggesting that Monahan has done anything improper or illegal.

"Jim is not dishonest," Gage said. "He's just disorganized."

Gage said people were working for Monahan whom Gage did not know existed. He said he once received a telephone call from a person who said he was arranging speaking engagements for Monahan. Gage said that, as campaign manager, he should have known about the man's activities.

"I said, 'Jim should make very few speaking engagements,' " Gage said. "He is not an orator."

Gage maintained that he was the guiding hand behind Monahan's successful March primary campaign that placed him second behind Bennett and put him into the general election. Bennett, an Ojai vice principal and coauthor of anti-sprawl measures in the county, received 44.3% of the vote, while Monahan got 31.7% and Ventura businesswoman Rosa Lee Measures got 23.6%

During the primary, Gage said he, not Monahan, recruited members of the religious right to the supervisorial campaign by declaring Monahan's support for the anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 22.

"It was my strategy that got him into the runoff," Gage said. "I was for 22 before anybody else was. I told Jim, 'I'm going to get you in a runoff. You climb on board 22 and ride it right on in.' Jim didn't understand that.

"I figured, what the hell, I'd get him in and he'd understand how I got him in, and he'd listen," said Gage.

But after the primary, Monahan increasingly declined to take his advice, Gage said.

"If I tell him to go right, he goes left," Gage said. "I couldn't handle it any more."

Now, Gage said he thinks it will be difficult for Monahan to overcome Bennett's advantage. "I don't think the way he's running right now . . . well, it's a very tough thing to pick up 18% more" of the vote.

Monahan said he will continue to function as his own campaign manager, but has hired a Santa Barbara firm, the Tartan Group, as a campaign consultant.

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