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Ventura County

Deputies' Support Not Helping Lane, Mikels Says

Elections: A survey by the Ventura County supervisor indicates that most voters don't know her opponent in the March race.

January 04, 2002|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Most voters don't know county supervisor candidate John Lane and don't see his backing by sheriff's deputies as a reason to vote for him, according to a poll conducted by his opponent, incumbent Judy Mikels.

Nearly three-quarters of likely voters in the Simi Valley-based 4th District said they had never heard of Lane, a Moorpark fraud investigator.

And although Lane is touting himself as a law-and-order candidate, law enforcement's support for him may not be enough to overcome Mikels' considerable lead, the numbers suggest.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they would vote for Mikels even after they were told that the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs' Assn. has endorsed her challenger. Sixteen percent said they favor Lane.

Forty-three percent said they didn't know whom they favored, but 19% of that group said the union endorsement would not influence their decision.

Those numbers don't bode well for Lane, who has made rank-and-file officers' support a centerpiece of his campaign, said John Magness, Mikels' campaign manager.

"The deputies are going to have to work very, very hard to get rid of Judy," Magness said. "It's not going to be a slam-dunk."

Lane dismissed the mid-November survey as outdated and inaccurate. He said Mikels had previously cited poll numbers to predict victory in a state Senate race, only to be trounced by her Republican primary rival.

Lane Doesn't Put Stock in Opponent's Numbers

Lane has not conducted his own survey, he said.

"I don't put a lot of stock in Judy's polling capabilities," Lane said. "My polling is based on the comments I am getting from the average voter at their door, and that's been positive. She can take all the polls she wants. But on March 5, let's see who's still standing."

The union representing deputies has flexed its muscles in the race, vowing to unseat Mikels, a two-term incumbent. Union members are angry over stalled contract talks and say Mikels and other board members have allowed the dispute to drag on for a year.

Deputies are seeking automatic wage increases and an improved pension that the county contends it cannot afford. The union has also endorsed businessman Randy Hoffman over Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks in the contest to replace retiring Thousand Oaks Supervisor Frank Schillo.

But most of the labor group's energy so far has been directed at Mikels.

In recent weeks, union officials organized a picket at a Mikels campaign event and circulated a letter urging voters to elect Lane. Glen Kitzmann, president of the union, said more activities are planned, although he declined to give specifics.

"This doesn't change our position one bit," Kitzmann said, referring to the poll. "She basically has ignored us, so how can you reward bad behavior?"

Lane, 54, a retired officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, says Mikels should be taken to task for allowing deputies to go without a contract for a year.

"When you consider the stress and all the anxiety they go through and how long they live after they retire, it's not too much to pay a little bit more to continue to have the safety we enjoy in this county," he said.

Lane also has been endorsed by the county firefighters' union, the Los Angeles deputy sheriffs union, several other Los Angeles police organizations and a regional police advocacy group. Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks, who has previously endorsed Mikels, said he has not decided whether he will publicly back a candidate in either of the supervisorial races.

Lane said Mikels also is weak on environmental and growth issues that are important to county residents. She has voiced support for the 3,050-home Ahmanson Ranch development at the county's southeastern border with Los Angeles County and has favored widening rural roads over the objection of Somis residents.

SOAR Architect, Somis Activists Back Lane

Lane has also picked up endorsements from Save Our Somis and Richard Francis, coauthor of the SOAR anti-sprawl initiatives.

"People are saying they agree about slowing growth and traffic," Lane said. "They are backing my candidacy because they believe I am a trustworthy public servant."

Mikels is ahead of Lane in another measure of their low-key campaign. She has raised $66,400 so far, compared with $40,000 for Lane. Magness said Mikels is prepared to spend as much as it takes to win.

"Money is not a problem for us," he said.

Lane, who briefly served on the Moorpark City Council in the 1980s and ran a failed Assembly campaign in 1998, concedes he will have a tougher time raising money than the incumbent.

But he says he is making up for the lack of cash by hitting the pavement. He has already visited hundreds of homes over the past three months and plans to knock on 20,000 doors by the end of the race.

"I'm getting good responses at the door, and nobody can substitute money for meeting people personally," he said. "I guarantee I'll outwalk her 10-1."

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