After supporting a conservative pro-business candidate in the March primary, Ventura County's top two law enforcement officers say they will not endorse either remaining candidate for the 1st District seat on the Board of Supervisors.
Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury and Sheriff Bob Brooks, both conservative Republicans, said Tuesday they will not publicly support Republican pro-business candidate Jim Monahan or Democratic anti-sprawl activist Steve Bennett in the November general election.
Bradbury and Brooks are arguably the most powerful political figures in the county, but both said they will not endorse a candidate to succeed Supervisor Susan Lacey, who has held the Ventura-based 1st District seat for 20 years.
Bradbury refused to comment on why he was not endorsing a candidate and relayed his response through an office employee.
Brooks said while he had endorsed former Ventura Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures in the March primary, this time he didn't see any reason to name a favorite.
"Both candidates seem to be very supportive of law enforcement," Brooks said.
Bennett, 49, said the lack of endorsement from county government's top Republicans spells trouble for Monahan.
"Those people who are paying a lot of attention don't have confidence in Jim Monahan's ability to be a good public official," Bennett said. "I don't think they have confidence in his ability to study complex county issues and to make decisions about them."
But Monahan, 65, said he is not worried the county's conservative establishment is not getting behind him in November.
'I think Brooks has gotten burned several times after endorsing people so it's probably wise not to," Monahan said.
As for Bradbury, Monahan said he would have liked an endorsement but added that not getting one is hardly devastating.
"He [Bradbury] said he wouldn't endorse anyone, he said he hadn't been successful in the past endorsing people," Monahan said. "It would have been nice to have but it can help you or hurt you."
Even without law enforcement's support, Monahan says, he is being backed by various city council members from throughout the county.
The sheriff said he doesn't always endorse his party's candidate, saying he votes for character first, issues second and party affiliation after that. He crossed party lines several times before, endorsing Democrats such as Supervisors John Flynn and Kathy Long.
After talking to Bennett and Monahan, Brooks said he came away impressed by both.
"Endorsements are chancy," he said, noting how dependent his department is on good relations with supervisors.
"Jim Monahan and Stephen Bennett seem to be excellent candidates and I don't see any reason to choose one over the other," Brooks said.
Brooks said he wasn't bothered by earlier statements by Bennett that the county's formula for public safety funding should be readjusted.
"I've heard those comments but when I have spoken to him he gives all the right answers," Brooks said. "Our union was given assurances that our budget would not be impacted by that."
Brooks is endorsing Republican candidates in other high-profile races. The sheriff is backing Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) for Congress and Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) in the state Legislature.
In the primary, Brooks and Bradbury endorsed Measures, a Republican who lost the contest with 8,392 votes compared with Monahan's 11,266 and Bennett's 15,709. They also backed Long, a Democrat who has not touched the funding formula that favors public safety over other county government departments.
Brooks said he endorsed Measures because she was a longtime friend, and Long because she is a staunch supporter of law enforcement.
Measures, meanwhile, is allowing Monahan to hang signs stating she "supports" his campaign, but said she is holding off a full-fledged endorsement of the man.
"I haven't concluded with that decision yet," Measures said. "I'm talking with his campaign consultant. They will have to have a lot of things in place first before I can endorse him."
Measures said she prefers Monahan's pro-business, pro-development ideas to Bennett's environmental, slow-growth positions. She said she could never vote for Bennett.
Measures would not discuss what changes she is looking for in the Monahan campaign that would allow her to endorse him.
County Assessor Dan Goodwin, a Republican, also said he wouldn't endorse anyone but that at this point he would probably vote for Monahan.
"I feel confident he has a good grasp of the issues," said Goodwin, who had earlier endorsed Measures. "His experience in the private sector taught him some real world lessons."
County Clerk Richard Dean, also a Republican, said he doesn't endorse candidates.
The Ventura Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business organization that also endorsed Measures in the primary, may remain silent this time around. Zoe Taylor, chief executive officer of the chamber, said no interviews have been scheduled with the candidates.
Although no final decision has been made, Taylor said, the chamber is "leaning toward not endorsing."