While the district lines slightly favor the Democrats in what is viewed as one of the few congressional “swing seats” in the nation, the number of Democrats possibly splitting votes on the California District 26 June primary ticket could threaten the party’s chances of having a candidate in the general election on Nov. 6.
Democrats David Pollock, David Cruz Thayne, Jess Herrera and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley are all vying for the democratic vote after county supervisor and front-runner Steve Bennett backed out of the race on the verge of receiving an endorsement at the party’s state convention on Feb. 11.
State Sen. Tony Strickland, the only Republican in the race, and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, who recently changed her registration from Republican to “no party preference,” have big-name recognition to area voters, as both have held elected office for decades combined.
But with California switching to a top-two vote getter primary, the number of Dems on the ticket, some pundits fear, may result in a Strickland-Parks general election in November. “I think it’s important for Democrats to unite behind one candidate so we have a real choice for November,” said David Atkins, first vice chairman of the Ventura County Democratic Party. With Bennett’s sudden withdrawal from the race, the state Democratic Party won’t officially take a position until June, so the county party cannot take a position.
“Personally, I believe Brownley is the best candidate to go forward and I hope other candidates will reconsider their run,” Atkins said.
Brownley, a three-term assembly member who recently moved to Oak Park from Santa Monica, entered the race a little more than two weeks ago. As an assembly member, Brownley has represented Westlake Village, Oak Park, Port Hueneme and part of Oxnard — areas that make up about 16 percent of the congressional district.
But her sudden entry to the race has brought fire from rival Democrats.
“This is about stating the facts,” said Alex Thompson, campaign manager for Thayne. “The matter is, Brownley has said she represents 50,000 people in Ventura County. The matter is, she represents them but doesn’t have an office here. She is trying to hide the fact she is from Santa Monica.” Thompson said there is “absolutely not a chance” for Thayne to pull out of the race.
Brownley said she will soon be opening an office in the congressional district, while continuing to represent her assembly district in the legislature.
“I have fought for issues that affect this local congressional district ever since I’ve been in the assembly,” said Brownley, who was named 2011 Legislator of the Year by the Congress of California Seniors and the year prior by the California School Boards Association.
Candidate and Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Herrera said the district needs somebody who was born and raised in the area to rightly understand its constituents. The fact that Brownley recently moved here from Santa Monica doesn’t sit well with Herrera.
“When have you seen someone from Oxnard or Camarillo represent L.A. County or Santa Barbara?” asked Herrera, who said he also has no intention of backing out of the race.
Moorpark Councilman and candidate Pollock said he isn’t concerned with Brownley’s recent entry. Pollock has generated some buzz lately with a recent interview on MSNBC and strong showings in local forums. The former financial analyst for NASA and president-elect of the California School Boards Association called Brownley a “viable candidate and a challenge,” but his focus is on economic justice for taxpayers, green jobs in Ventura County and fixing a broken healthcare system, he said. Pollock plans on opening a campaign office in Oxnard later this month.
The newly redrawn district now has a 6 percent Democratic registration advantage, and this is the first time in 25 years that Rep. Elton Gallegly will not be on the ballot.