Tim Allison and Marie Panec are similar when it comes to many issues, but there’s no denying the one thing they agree upon 100 percent: it’s time to replace Elton Gallegly in the 24th Congressional District.
The shared sentiment has become the backbone for two candidates both seeking a nomination as the challenger to longtime, 23-year Republican incumbent Gallegly, whom Allison, Panec and supporters of both Democratic candidates claim has ignored the majority of his constituency for years, if not decades.
“A big part of my campaign is that this district needs representation,” says Allison, “and it’s been missing it for a long time.”
“One of the things all three of us are running on is that he (Gallegly) hasn’t represented the district for quite some time,” says Panec. The third Democratic candidate in the primary, Shawn Stern, said this week that he is not seeking donations of any kind during his campaign.
Allison is no stranger to the political and nonprofit landscapes of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, having led numerous successful City Council campaigns and major fundraising efforts. Among his prior elected positions, Allison was a former statewide officer of the Environmental Caucus for the state Democratic party, where he helped raise $2 million to clean up ocean and creek pollution; a past president of the Santa Barbara County League of Conservation Voters; and president of the Ventura County Small Business Coalition.
Allison’s big ticket issues are education, health reform and environmental change. Those can’t be achieved, he says, until new leadership is found in the 24th Congressional District. According to Allison, incumbent Gallegly’s presence in the district’s Santa Barbara region is so poor that many people consider Lois Capps, 23rd district congresswoman, as their true representative.
“What we need to make sure is to have the strongest possible candidate to go against Gallegly in the fall,” Allison says. “I don’t think there are many strong substantive differences between Ms. Panec and myself.”
Panec is a Moorpark College biology professor and a current eight-year member of the Oak Park Unified School District Board of Education. She also serves currently on the county’s Board of Community Action and belonged to the U.S. Peace Corps, stationed in Africa for more than two years.
She is also running on a platform of furthering education, establishing health care reform, and significantly advancing women in the political arena, the last of which solidifies the endorsement Panec received from Roseann Mikos, Moorpark’s mayor pro tem.
“She’s a good thinker. She’s thoughtful about what she does. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks,” Mikos said about Panec this week. “She has a good blend of experiences that really surpasses anyone else.”
Panec also has the backing of the academic community in Ventura County, particularly in the Gallegly-popular east county, the area being a tough hurdle to surmount, according to Panec.
“The (24th) district is still more Republican than Democrat,” she says. “And in addition, he has more name recognition.”
Allison, however, has the lion’s share of endorsements to his credit, supported by the state Democratic party, several members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and Santa Barbara City Council, and other noteworthy politicians, including Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton, State Assemblyman Pedro Nava and Congresswoman Capps, among many others.
Jill Martinez, former president of the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee, is another Allison backer.
“He is a competent collaborator with years of success and community organizing in Santa Barbara,” she said.
Martinez lost a bid to unseat Gallegly in 2006 as his Democratic opponent. She says his inefficiencies as the district’s representative are evident more than ever before in changing political and social times.
“Gallegly is totally out of touch. He doesn’t know what’s going on his district. He’s not present anywhere,” Martinez says. “Ninety-four percent of his constituency has not met him. They wouldn’t recognize him if they saw him.”
Both Panec and Allison are such strong candidates that board members of the Ventura County Young Democrats were torn over whom to endorse. The group went with Allison.
“Marie Panec was impressive and said a number of things that appealed to us, especially in education,” said David Atkins, club president. “Tim has an impressive overall background in politics, a firm grasp of the issues and what it takes to be involved in politics at such a large level.”
Because Gallegly is not being challenged by other Republicans, he won’t begin an active campaign until the general election later this year, said Gallegly spokesman Thomas Pfeifer. Pfeifer countered claims against Gallegly from the Democratic camp.
“He goes before the voters every two years to see if they’ll give a vote of confidence, to see if he’s been doing his job,” Pfeifer said. “If the voters decide he’s not doing his job for the 24th District, they will vote him out.”
The Ventura County Young Republicans support Gallegly with the understanding that his longevity equals good consistency.
“Elton has been serving the constituents of his district really well over the years, and that is why he continues to be re-elected,” said the club’s president, Matt Hewitt, in an e-mail. “The fact that there are so many Democrats running against such a well-respected and well-liked representative like Gallegly, really strikes me as ‘much ado about nothing.’ ”