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Ventura County | ELECTIONS

Party Politics Enters Race for D.A.

Campaign: Bamieh tries to rally Republicans at a candidates forum. Totten objects, saying the office is nonpartisan with good reason.

January 29, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

District attorney candidate Ron Bamieh tried to whip up support among fellow Republicans on Monday by telling a group his election would benefit the party and bring needed change to the prosecutor's office.

"We are going to win this election on March 5," Bamieh said. "Not only will this county benefit, but our party will benefit."

Bamieh's remarks outraged opponent Greg Totten, who avoided any discussion of partisan politics at a noon forum between the candidates at the Sterling Hills Country Club in Camarillo.

"I am a lifelong Republican," Totten said after the forum. "But a district attorney is a nonpartisan office for good reason: Lady Justice wears a blindfold. That means that in the administration of justice, partisan politics has no place."

The two candidates spoke before members and guests of Camarillo Republican Women Federated, touting their experience as tough prosecutors, while offering different views on how best to lead the district attorney's office. The men later fielded questions about the death penalty and California's penal system.

Totten and Bamieh are vying to replace retiring Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury in a costly and bitterly contentious race.

Totten, the 47-year-old second-in-command in the district attorney's office, has won key endorsements from labor unions, local politicians and law enforcement officials.

But Bamieh, an aggressive 36-year-old prosecutor and son of a well-connected GOP contributor, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars--most of it donated by his father--to get his name before Ventura County voters.

One mailer sent out this week pictures Bamieh in a tuxedo standing next to former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Bamieh previously worked as a Bush appointee in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The mailer features a message from former state Sen. Cathie Wright of Simi Valley touting Bamieh as a candidate "committed to building our Republican party."

Bamieh has sent a different mailer to Democrats and produced a third targeting Latino voters.

Speaking at Monday's forum, Bamieh discussed the need to boost voter registration countywide, particularly in Latino neighborhoods.

"Reach out with me because that is where I am going," he said. "As Republicans, we want to be the party of this county."

After the forum, Bamieh said he has been talking to disenfranchised residents in Santa Paula, Fillmore and Oxnard and encouraging them to vote on election day.

Bamieh said his mailers are targeting 55,000 households countywide and are part of a goal to improve voter turnout regardless of party affiliation.

Totten predicted his opponent's tactic would backfire.

"He's pandering," Totten said, "and it's shameless."

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