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Ventura County

Flynn May Seek 8th Term Despite Vow to Latinos

Supervisors: Many Oxnard political leaders in the county official's district feel it's time for a change after 26 years.

June 28, 2002|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reneging on an earlier pledge to Oxnard's Latino leaders, Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn said Thursday he "still has fire in the belly" and will very likely seek reelection for an eighth term.

"If I do change my mind, it won't be the first time," said Flynn, 69, who has held the Oxnard-based office for 26 years. "If it means violating the pledge, then that's what it means."

Flynn is midway through a seventh term. Another run in 2004 would most likely galvanize a core of top Oxnard political leaders, many of them Latino, who believe it's time for a change in the 5th Supervisorial District. Latinos make up 65% of the district.

"There is a desire for a Latino supervisor in that district, no question about it," said Hank Lacayo, former chairman of the county's Democratic Party and outgoing president of El Concilio, a Latino advocacy group. "It's not a secret. But they have to pick a person who Latinos may go for."

One contender could be Oxnard Councilman John Zaragoza, who said he has been approached several times about running for the position and "has not ruled it out."

Other names frequently cited are Francisco Dominguez, who unsuccessfully challenged Flynn in his last election, community college district trustee Art Hernandez and Jess Herrera, a Port of Hueneme commissioner.

Several community leaders said Flynn promised during the 2000 election to step down midterm and hand his seat to Herrera. Flynn acknowledged making the statement but said, "It was on the spur of the moment; I'm not going to step down."

The possibility of another Flynn run comes in the wake of a messy public feud between the supervisor and Irma Lopez, an influential fund-raiser and wife of Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez.

Lopez filed a police report Monday contending Flynn had verbally threatened her at a Democratic Party barbecue last weekend. Lopez said Flynn shouted, "I'm gonna get you!" as she was leaving the party.

Flynn disputes making such a threat and says Lopez and others are trying to discredit him because they want a Latino to fill his seat.

On Thursday, Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez said the incident is being investigated and will be referred next week to the district attorney's office for review.

"That's based on the fact that we had a criminal threat and that she has asked for a restraining order," said Lopez, who is not related to Irma Lopez.

Flynn issued a statement Thursday acknowledging, "I have on some occasions lost my temper." But he held his ground on his grievance with Lopez.

"I am sorry that I may have offended some, but [Lopez's] comments appearing in the newspapers simply are untrue."

Flynn's mercurial temper is legendary. Employees at the County Government Center, his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and reporters have all been the target of a Flynn tongue-lashing over the years.

But he usually gets over it quickly and makes a joke to smooth over ruffled feelings. He often jokes he is the only politician in Ventura County who has had to apologize to every other politician.

Although Flynn said he intended to step down after his current term, he said he is rethinking that position because people keep urging him to run again.

"A lot of it depends on how my health is," Flynn said, "whether or not I think it is time for me to leave this job. It may well be. But I don't want to leave under this situation, where people are trying to embarrass me and force me out."

Latino leaders have tried to win Flynn's cooperation in stepping down, in part because they know it will be difficult to dislodge him.

Dominguez, his opponent two years ago, received 35% of the vote to Flynn's 53%.

"I never underestimate John Flynn's ability to overcome adversity," Lacayo said.

"I call him the Kenny Hahn of Ventura County. Because Kenny Hahn [the late Los Angeles County supervisor] had the same problems representing a black district. But when it came down to the polls, it was impossible to beat him," he said.

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