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The Region

Costly, Contentious Races for Supervisor and D.A. Shaping Up in Ventura County

Primary: A slew of largely unknown candidates will vie for clerk and assessor.

January 02, 2002|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Campaigns for district attorney and supervisor are expected to be among the most contentious and costly in Ventura County this political season, while a host of mostly unknown candidates seeks to fill open seats for county clerk and tax assessor.

The 2002 election year kicks into high gear this month, as county, state and congressional candidates prepare for the March 5 primary election.

In a county that prides itself on low crime, Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury's departure after a quarter of a century on the job has set off the biggest local contest of the year.

Bradbury's choice as his successor is Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Greg Totten, 47, who has worked as a prosecutor and an administrator in the district attorney's office for 17 years.

His challenger is Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh, an aggressive young prosecutor and the son of a well-connected Republican campaign contributor who counts former President George Bush among his friends. Bamieh, 35, joined the office in 1993, and previously worked as an assistant chief deputy at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Totten said he expects to be outspent 5 to 1. Bamieh said he would not apologize for an aggressive campaign.

"With high spending, they're going to be in everyone's face," said Herb Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University.

Meanwhile, the retirement of conservative two-term Supervisor Frank Schillo could affect the county's growth and development policies. Schillo's district encompasses Thousand Oaks and most of the Conejo Valley.

Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks, a staunch environmentalist, will face millionaire businessman Randy Hoffman, who is also campaigning as a slow-growth candidate.

Supervisor Judy Mikels, who represents Simi Valley and Moorpark, faces a challenge from John Lane of Moorpark. Though Lane, a fraud investigator in the Los Angeles city attorney's office, is not well known in the county, he is backed by the sheriff's deputies union, which has attacked Mikels for not ushering through a massive benefits package.

In other county races, the retirements of veteran county Clerk Richard Dean and Treasurer-Tax Collector Harold S. Pittman have attracted numerous candidates.

Six have lined up for Dean's post: Assistant County Recorder Philip J. Schmit; Oxnard City Clerk Daniel Martinez; Moorpark lawyer Michael H. Wesner; Ventura County Board of Education Trustee Yvonne Gallegos Bodle; Simi Valley businessman John Reid; and local Republican Party leader Jackie Rodgers.

Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Matheny and former Thousand Oaks Councilman Mike Markey, a loan officer, will compete for Pittman's post.

Most challenges to incumbents at the state and congressional levels are not expected to succeed.

"The redistricting has just taken the element of competition out of all of these races," said Jere Robings, a local taxpayer advocate who is supporting Camarillo businesswoman Beth Rogers' bid for Congress.

"It's locked in to the point that in some cases, it's even hard to find people to run a race," Robings said. "The incumbents love it, but politically, the people don't benefit. It's beneficial for the public to have discourse on issues and strong competition."

Assembly members Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Keith Richman (R-Northridge) and Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) face no competition until the Nov. 5 general election. The same is true for Reps. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) and Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).

State Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) faces a primary challenge from a Los Angeles County businessman whose rural town was drawn into the 37th Assembly District as a result of last year's redistricting.

James F. Duzick, 56, president of the Agua Dulce Town Council and owner of an aerospace instrumentation company, said the redistricting process was so confusing that he didn't realize until after he had filled out the paperwork that he would be taking on a Ventura County-based incumbent.

In other legislative races, Rogers and Grover Beach physician Donald Regan will compete in a Republican primary for the chance to challenge Capps for Congress in November.

And singer-songwriter Ellie Michaels of Thousand Oaks will challenge state Sen. Bruce McPherson (R-Santa Cruz) in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor.

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