A former Simi Valley mayor running for his 12th term and a computer instructor from Solvang are competing to represent the 24th Congressional District, which includes most of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Incumbent Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) is an archconservative who frustrated local Democrats by announcing his retirement, then taking it back. Marta Jorgensen (D-Solvang) is a first-time candidate who dropped out of the June primary campaign to endorse Jill Martinez, then jumped back in two weeks before the election to beat her.

With opposing views and varying backgrounds, the two have begun the battle for the coveted seat and are ready to talk about some of the country’s most controversial topics.
Gallegly, who was adamantly opposed to rescuing troubled banks, says he is not surprised the Bush Administration’s Wall Street bailout failed to reassure panicking investors who sent the Dow Jones index tumbling earlier this month.

“I said it wasn’t the answer; I voted against it,” Gallegly said in an Oct. 10 phone interview. “When the federal government takes over the private sector, it’s a very delicate situation.”

Among other priorities Gallegly plans to work on if he wins re-election, the Simi Valley Republican says he will hope to pass legislation against unscrupulous mortgage practices and punish lenders who engage in them.

“I can assure you that’s going to happen; those that feel as I do are going to force the issue,” Gallegly said, adding that he voted against both versions of the bailout bill because protections against out-and-out fraud weren’t included.

“That’s what I wanted in this bill; that’s what I’m going to work toward,” Gallegly said, noting that most people facing foreclosure made good faith efforts to keep up with their mortgage payments.

Besides working to resolve the mortgage crisis, Gallegly wants to make it cheaper to run a business in California; he says businesses are fleeing for other states with less regulation and lower tax burdens.

“We’re in an economy where regulations and taxes are very high, competing with states that don’t have the same tax structure,” Gallegly said. “But we have other elements; we’re a good place to live and raise a family.”

Gallegly supports efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, like the bill he introduced to require pre-arraignment screening of immigrants charged with crimes “so that they’re not just released right back out on the street; they’re held if they’re illegal.”

Quality of health care is as important as affordability, says Gallegly, who favors giving tax incentives to people for health care programs.

“If you have something that is affordable but isn’t worth a damn, that’s not acceptable,” said Gallegly. “I have fought to get group plans for small businesses that have not traditionally been able to afford health care.”

Gallegly’s opponent is Democrat Marta Jorgensen, a Solvang private school instructor who beat two other women in the June primary despite dropping out of the race in April, then jumping back in two weeks before the election at the request of supporters.

“The Republicans like to think that nobody knows who I am,” Jorgensen said in a Monday phone interview. But Jorgensen says she gets phone calls from people who not only say they want change, they are specifically tired of Gallegly.

“They tell me how dismissive he is, how out-of-touch with voters he is,” Jorgensen said. “A lot of people feel pretty much disenfranchised.”

Jorgensen is as clear about her positions as Gallegly is, and agrees with him that more needs to be done to help homeowners facing foreclosure by regulating lenders more strictly.

“The (bailout) plan did not offer any means to regulate the market,” says Jorgensen, who notes four million homes face foreclosure. “(Lenders) do pretty much what they want, it’s profit-driven.

“I think we need to refinance mortgages and to offer an economic stimulus package —(recovery) won’t happen overnight, but we can stall a lot of damage.”

Jorgensen is a proponent of shifting regulation of financial and other institutions to local governments, a concept she believes will get popular support, thanks to dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“The concept is to rebuild bottom-up so power sources are localized,” explained Jorgensen. “There are some economists who say this kind of restructuring could work with a lot of structures.”

Like Gallegly, Jorgensen believes it is too expensive to run a business in California and supports lowering franchise taxes on corporations.

“I’d like to see something done to make it more economical to do business here. That would be a good place to start,” she said, adding that she would bring jobs and more affordable housing to the region with economic incentives for builders who focus on lower-priced homes.

“So instead of $800,000 mini-estates, they work toward more realistic goals,” Jorgensen said. “Not cheaper quality but cheaper cost, so that the average person can buy a house.”

For health care reform, Jorgensen favors expanding Medicare and likes the model used by State Senator Sheila Kuehl in the health care bill now sitting on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

“Unfortunately, thanks to budget cuts, it will probably get vetoed,” said Jorgensen.