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Ventura County

Labor Day Starts This Party

Democrats: Local leaders emphasize their blue-collar roots at an annual rally that traditionally kicks off the campaign season.

September 03, 2002|DARYL KELLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a celebration of working people, Ventura County Democrats on Monday emphasized the strengths of three women at the top of their local ticket at a traditional Labor Day picnic kicking off the fall campaign season.

About 300 union members and Democratic activists congregated at a seaside Oxnard park in a tribute to their party's blue-collar traditions and in recognition of the emergency workers who responded at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

"Going back to 9/11, it was the first responders who are now all heroes. Who were they? Working men and women," said U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).

One after another, from the top of the local ticket to the bottom, Democrats had the chance to polish speeches and line up volunteers to take their messages to thousands of doorsteps before the Nov. 5 election.

Picnickers applauded Capps and two other incumbent women seeking reelection Nov. 5--all of whom represent portions of coastal Ventura County.

"The Best Man for the Job is a Woman," read a button on a straw hat worn by county Democratic Party Chairwoman Sharon Hillbrant.

Because of once-a-decade redistricting, Capps now represents Oxnard, Port Hueneme and a bit of Ventura as well as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) also inherited a chunk of Oxnard to go with her Los Angeles County district. Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) saw her portion of west Ventura County expand into Oxnard as well.

A fourth woman lawmaker, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), is not up for reelection this year but also represents Oxnard after redistricting.

Two years ago, three Republicans--Tony Strickland, Tom McClintock and Elton Gallegly--represented the city in the Assembly, state Senate and the House of Representatives. But the rejiggering of districts moved their districts out of Oxnard, a Democratic stronghold.

"We've had a 180-degree political shift," Pavley said.

Jackson told the crowd that the new districts mean Oxnard finally will have some clout in Sacramento because of Kuehl, Pavley and herself. Both houses of the Legislature are dominated by Democrats.

"That's better than the nonrepresentation you've had the last many years," she said.

Pavley said of Jackson: "She and I work very well together and agree on about everything."

The preservation of Ormond Beach, a bird and wildlife sanctuary and the county's largest privately owned, undeveloped stretch of oceanfront, unified the candidates. "One of my highest priorities is to acquire the land and restore [it]," Pavley said of 750 acres of Ormond wetlands.

The state Coastal Conservancy has bought about 270 acres and hopes to soon close a deal for 270 more.

"How do you like that--I'm represented at last," said Jean Harris, co-founder of a group seeking to preserve Ormond Beach. "Fran even talked about Ormond Beach. This is exciting, all these women doing all the right things."

At the top of the candidates' list of goals are coastal preservation, environmental protection, affordable medications for senior citizens and greater spending for education.

Unlike two years ago, when costly campaigns were shaping up for several local legislative seats, this fall's races involve what are generally regarded as safe seats for incumbent Democrats and Republicans alike. But a key message to loyalists Monday was not to relax, but to campaign hard to get Democratic voters to the polls.

Two-term Rep. Capps, for one, is challenged by Beth Rogers, a wealthy businesswoman with strong Republican backing.

Ventura County Republicans are not holding a campaign kickoff picnic this fall. Instead, their big fund-raiser will be a Hall of Fame dinner Sept. 7 honoring retiring Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury.

Both Democrats and Republicans will begin voter registration drives in earnest in the next week or two, and campaign offices are now opening for candidates in both parties.

Republicans have increased their countywide registered voter advantage slightly since the March primary election. There are now 160,567 registered Republicans, up about 2,000 since March, while there are 150,393 Democrats, up about 800.

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