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Local Voters Face Big Decisions

Politics: Ventura County ballots include land-use measures and races for Congress, city councils and college board.

September 15, 2002|CATHERINE SAILLANT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even in this off-year election season, Ventura County voters will have compelling choices this fall as they pick a new congressional representative, decide who should lead the community college district out of scandal and determine whether they really want to limit suburban sprawl.

Voters in nine cities will also select municipal leaders, and, in 12 school districts, decide who sets educational policy for thousands of public school students.

Faced with a lackluster governor's race and low-key state ballot measures, local issues may be the primary reason voters go to the polls Nov. 5, county leaders predict.

"Certainly, people will come out for the land-use measures that are on the ballot," Supervisor Judy Mikels said. "And it's probably the first time in a long time anyone has paid attention to a community college district election."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 17, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 6 inches; 220 words Type of Material: Correction
Ventura County elections--A story that ran in some editions of Sunday's California section on Ventura County elections failed to mention a candidate running for a seat on the Ventura County Community College District. Movie theater attendant David L. Norrdin is seeking election to the Area 1 seat based in Ventura.

The ballot also includes four Assembly contests. But newly drawn districts heavily favor the incumbents in each race.

Revamped congressional boundaries likewise appear to favor Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly's chances of reelection to his Simi Valley-based district.

The new boundaries build on Gallegly's conservative base in Ventura County, adding Vandenberg Air Force Base and the GOP-leaning ranches and vineyards of northern Santa Barbara County. Republicans hold an 11% edge over Democrats in voter registration in the district.

Gallegly faces Democrat Fern Rudin, a Thousand Oaks public relations consultant, and computer programmer Gary Harber, the Libertarian candidate.

In the county's other congressional district, Democrats solidly outnumber Republicans, 45% to 33%. The long and narrow district takes in environmentally conscious beach communities from Morro Bay in San Louis Obispo County to Port Hueneme. The southern flank sweeps over labor-friendly Oxnard, El Rio and Ventura.

This appears to favor Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), political analysts say. If Capps wins, she would be the first Democrat to represent the western portion of the county in Congress since George Outland served two terms during World War II.

But winning the Democratic base won't be effortless, one political analyst said. A third of the district--the Ventura County portion--is new to the two-term congresswoman, having been added during the recent round of redistricting, noted Herb Gooch, a Thousand Oaks political analyst. Her Republican challenger, businesswoman Beth Rogers, is a fourth-generation Ventura County farmer who speaks fluent Spanish--a big plus in heavily Latino Oxnard.

If Rogers can raise enough money, the campaign will be competitive, Gooch predicted.

"Rogers also has her own money," he said. "It becomes much more of a race."

Both sides plan to spend up to $2 million on the campaign. Both candidates have moderate views on taxes, the environment and abortion rights, critical issues for the district.

Capps received a $200,000 boost last week at a glitzy Santa Barbara fund-raiser featuring former President Bill Clinton. The event drew 700 supporters.

Rogers, meanwhile, raised about $45,000 when House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) stumped for her last month at a Simi Valley barbecue. Rogers said she is not daunted by what many analysts believe is an uphill battle.

"There is a large bloc of Latino voters out there that will identify with me because I identify with them," said Rogers, who has studied in Mexico City and raised a Salvadoran child in her home. "Every community has to have their vote earned."

A third candidate in the race is Libertarian James E. Hill, a plumbing inspector who lives in Grover Beach.

In the college district race, 13 candidates are vying for three seats. The normally low-profile district has come under intense criticism in recent months over allegations of excessive spending by suspended Chancellor Philip Westin.

Trustee Art Hernandez, who is seeking a second term, will have to defend his approval of a new contract and a $30,000 pay raise for Westin even as the chancellor's expense account was being questioned.

Hernandez faces three challengers for his Oxnard-based district: educator Ron Segovia Dyste, businesswoman Sylvia Munoz Schnopp and mental health counselor Deshay Ford.

Trustee Norm Nagel, who also approved Westin's $203,000 contract, is stepping down from his Thousand Oaks office, opening the seat to five contestants. They are businesswoman Cheryl Heitman; parent Linda Van Dolsen; management consultant Dan Peate; retired firefighter Sandy Patrizio; and retired lecturer Carroll Bowen.

The third seat, held by trustee John Tallman, has drawn two challengers: teacher Mary Anne Rooney and accountant Kevin Laird. Tallman was the only trustee to vote against Westin's contract renewal, a record that should work in his favor at the polls, analysts said.

Public fury over Westin, who was placed on administrative leave in July, should also motivate voters to come to the polls, Mikels said.

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