Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Long, Morgan in Different Camps on Tobacco Funds

But Measure O is only one of several issues that separate the two supervisorial candidates in the highly contentious 3rd District race.

September 17, 2000|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As they gear up for the November election, Supervisor Kathy Long and her challenger, Camarillo Councilman Mike Morgan, have staked out different positions over a key countywide initiative that will determine who will control $260 million in tobacco settlement money.

Measure O seeks to turn over the county's share of the tobacco money to seven private area hospitals for health care programs. The money would be paid out over 25 years.

Long and her colleagues fought unsuccessfully in court to keep the initiative off the ballot, arguing it is unconstitutional and represents an illegal gift of public funds. Expressing "grave doubts" about its legality, the judge in the case nonetheless ruled the measure be placed on the ballot.

If Measure O passes, Long said the county should again sue the sponsor--Community Memorial Hospital--to block its implementation. Long said the money should be spent on county health care programs.

Morgan, however, said, "If people vote it in, I think that's where it should stay." If the measure fails, Morgan said, the county should share the settlement money with private hospitals.

Measure O is only one of several issues that separate the two candidates in the highly contentious 3rd District race, a rematch of a 1996 contest in which Long beat Morgan by an 8% margin in what is the largest and most diverse district in the county.

The campaign is expected to heat up in coming weeks, as the two Camarillo-based politicians battle it out in the nonpartisan race by underscoring their strengths, while emphasizing each other's weaknesses.

Long, 50, hopes to convince voters she is an experienced and capable leader who helped the county emerge from a costly Medicare billing scandal and the abrupt resignation of county manager David Baker in December after only four days on the job.

Morgan, who lags behind Long in campaign funds and major endorsements, is trying to paint the incumbent as an ineffective politician whose conduct, including her vote for a botched merger of two county agencies, helped trigger the county's fiscal crisis and scare away Baker.

He accuses Long of being too cozy with special interest groups, including labor unions and developers, that have funded her campaign. Morgan also decries Long as an opportunist who takes credit for helping hire Harry Hufford, a veteran of Los Angeles County government, to clean up the county's financial problems.

Long recently took Morgan, 53, to court to force him to remove from his ballot statement contentions that Long was responsible for millions of dollars in fines stemming from overbilling of Medicare. Morgan said he merely followed examples given him by the county's election office and thought he was within limits of the law.

Herbert Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University, said running a negative campaign is Morgan's only real choice.

"Voters have short memories," he said of the county's recent problems. "He's [Morgan] got to etch out a reason they should want to make a change. It's awful hard to knock off an incumbent."

*

*

The sprawling 3rd District stretches from suburban Camarillo and parts of Thousand Oaks to tiny Ojai and the agricultural cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore in the Santa Clara Valley. For this reason, the two candidates are confronted with vastly different issues and concerns among voters.

For Santa Paula and Fillmore residents, the debate this election season largely focuses on whether to approve local ordinances similar to the SOAR growth-control initiatives already in place throughout the county. Opponents believe such limits would cripple the cities' abilities to build their already limited tax bases.

Both Long, a Democrat, and Morgan, a Republican, are fully aware of the importance of Santa Clara Valley constituents in the election. While the largest bloc of the 77,992 registered voters in the district--about 45%--live in Camarillo, another crucial 20% of the vote is concentrated in Santa Paula and Fillmore.

*

In their 1996 contest, Morgan dominated the election in Camarillo, but Long's popularity in the Santa Clara Valley, Ojai and Thousand Oaks gave her the necessary edge.

Morgan for the past four years has trumpeted his support of the SOAR initiatives, and has repeatedly criticized Long for opposing voter-control over development issues. Long co-chaired a committee that recommended preserving agricultural greenbelts through local policies adopted by elected officials.

But this election year Morgan is declining to take a position on the SOAR initiatives in the two Santa Clara Valley cities.

"I'm not going to be an outsider telling those people how to vote," he said. "It's an emotional issue that has to be decided by local residents."

Long opposes the SOAR initiatives in both cities.

"My position has been and remains that I don't believe you can do land-use planning by a ballot box sound bite."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|