Supervisor Steve Bennett helped draft Ventura County's slow-growth… (Los Angeles Times )
Ending months of speculation, Steve Bennett, a Ventura County supervisor best known for a set of tough development restrictions, on Wednesday announced his bid for a congressional seat created by last summer's redistricting.
Bennett, a Democrat, hopes to represent the new 26th Congressional District, which spans almost all of Ventura County outside Simi Valley. Much of the area has been represented for 25 years by Rep. Elton Gallegy, a Simi Valley Republican who has not yet announced whether he plans to run again.
Gallegly is a conservative with a record of tough stances on illegal immigration. Bennett is so heavily associated with environmental issues that he announced his congressional run at the Ventura headquarters of Patagonia, an outdoor-gear manufacturer long known for backing green causes.
In Wednesday's appearance, Bennett, a former high school economics teacher, cast himself as a common-sense leader who would favor pragmatism over ideology. He decried what he saw as a "war on the working class … fought so cleverly that many in the working class are voting against their self-interest."
A former Ventura councilman, Bennett, with attorney Richard Francis, designed a 1995 city slow-growth measure requiring a popular vote for development of agricultural land. It has since been adopted by other cities and by Ventura County, where Bennett has been a supervisor since 2000. He said he would not run for reelection to the board when his seat comes up in 2012.
The new district has a slight Democratic edge, potentially offering the party a better chance than it has had in the past. The House Majority PAC, a national Democratic funding group, has named the district one of a dozen where Republican control is in jeopardy.
In an interview, Gallegly said he was waiting for a court decision in a federal suit challenging the redistricting.
"I'm a ready-aim-shoot guy, not a ready-shoot-aim guy," he said.
Gallegly described himself as a Reagan Republican and Bennett as "a kind of Obama environmental Democrat".
Under redistricting, Gallegly's home is in the 25th Congressional District, a vast territory that includes the Santa Clarita Valley and points east. It is represented by Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita).
Two other Democrats have announced for the 26th: Westlake Village businessman David Cruz Thayne and Moorpark City Councilman David Pollock. No Republicans have come forward, evidently awaiting Gallegly's decision.