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Party Faithful Gather to Cheer GOP Candidates


CAMARILLO — Surrounded by small red-white-and-blue placards touting George W. Bush for president, three dozen members of Ventura County's Grand Old Party noshed on barbecued chicken and homemade cookies at a picnic spot here Saturday, while they talked about freedom, American traditions and restoring integrity in the White House.

But this little informal gathering at Pleasant Valley Park, in which most guests showed up in jeans and chatted one-on-one like old friends, wasn't just a show of national pride but an annual Republican Party pep rally and fund-raiser for local candidates in the home stretch before the November election.

"This is the party of liberty for an awful lot of folks who want to be left alone to lead their lives," said Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge), who is in a Senate race with Simi Valley Democrat Daniel Gonzales in the 19th District that straddles Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley.

McClintock said one of his priorities is to complete state highway and water projects that have remained unfinished for more than two decades.

"We're choking in our own traffic, and we can't guarantee enough electricity to keep your refrigerator on," he said.

Ed Masry of Westlake Village--the millionaire activist attorney portrayed in the movie "Erin Brockovich" who is running for a spot on the Thousand Oaks City Council--showed up in a business suit and bright yellow tie, but his manner was jovial.

"I'm delighted to see so many citizens active in politics and who are vigorously campaigning. It's an American tradition," he said.

Masry and his daughter arrived with Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Linda Parks, who is up for reelection. Both candidates are ardent advocates of slow growth and both have been endorsed by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), whose district includes Thousand Oaks.

"We've got to excite people and get them to the polls," said Audra Strickland, wife of Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), a first-term incumbent who is battling Somis teacher Roz McGrath in what has been described as a "must win" race by party leaders.

The Stricklands came to the party after spending all morning knocking on doors in Camarillo and then attending a fund-raiser for the homeless at a ranch off Pacific Coast Highway.

Audra Strickland, a schoolteacher, said high on her husband's agenda was reforming and improving education, in part by reducing class size in middle school math and science courses.

In a brief speech, Claude Parrish, a member of the state Board of Equalization, encouraged candidates and supporters to continue their hard work.

"I ran four times before I was elected," Parrish said. "I'm the perfect guy to say to them, 'Don't give up.' "

Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra, chairman of Bush's Ventura County campaign, came with his young daughter, Elizabeth, who wandered around holding a hot dog while her dad chatted.

Becerra, representing seven-term Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) at the party, said the representative was knocking on doors and couldn't make it.

And Camarillo City Councilman Mike Morgan, deep into an expensive brawl to unseat Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, touted his plan requiring the board to pass an ordinance mandating that $260 million in tobacco money be used only for health care.

Although she agrees with the idea, Long commented recently that Morgan's plan was "a day late and a dollar short."

On Saturday, Morgan defended his proposal. "I'm not a Johnny-come-lately," he said, "I've been recommending this approach since Day One."

Despite cloudy skies, Jackie Rogers, chairwoman of the county GOP, predicted a bright future.

"We are a united party here in Ventura County," she said. "We are fully confident that all of our candidates will be victorious."

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