On Thursday, July 10, The Greater Oxnard Organization of Democrats (GOOD) Club provided an opportunity for the public to hear from the three Democratic candidates running for the three Ventura County Supervisor seats up for grabs in 2020, with a focus on getting a Democrat back into a seat that went to a Republican in 2016.

“Many of our members are interested in flipping District 3 back to a Democrat following the loss in 2016,” said Steven Auclair, president of the GOOD Club. He was referring to the election of County Supervisor Kelly Long, District 3, in 2016, a seat that was long held by Kathy Long (no relation), a Democrat. Kelly Long, a registered Republican, won the election narrowly over a Democratic candidate in 2016. Three seats constitute a majority on the five-seat Board of Supervisors.

Elections for county supervisors are officially nonpartisan, but the 2020 race is shaping up to mirror 2016 with party affiliation becoming a focus of the race. In California prior to 1990, political parties were barred from endorsing and financially supporting local candidates in races that were nonpartisan, such as school boards, city councils, Superior Court judges and county supervisors. That prohibition was lifted by a court decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990, which said that barring that support was a violation of free speech. The same idea and rationale for the decision was found again in 2010 for the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations and nonprofits free speech protection regarding political communications. News reports in 1990 reveal that those who wanted parties barred from these local endorsements feared corruption.

“Supposed to be nonpartisan, but that’s not the way it works,” said Shawn Terris, chair of the endorsement committee of the Democratic Club of Ventura. “I think most voters want to know [party affiliation], some don’t. The voters that don’t care are the ones registered as ‘decline to state,’ they are not affiliated with a party, they have no loyalty, their focus is on the candidates themselves.” She emphasized the importance of the District 3 Supervisor seat. “It’s a big deal because we want to get that seat back from Kelly Long.”

As of July 16, only four candidates have thrown their hat into the race for the three open county supervisor seats. Incumbent Kelly Long, a Republican, will defend her seat in District 3, which she won for the first time in 2016, edging out a seat long held by a Democrat. Long’s opponent is Dr. Kim Marra Stephenson, an educator from Camarillo and a Democrat, who is running for office for the first time. Carmen Ramirez, currently mayor pro-tem of Oxnard, is running for District 5, a seat open because John Zaragoza (Democrat) is termed out. Finally, Matt LaVere, a Democrat and current mayor of Ventura, is seeking the District 1 seat, held by Steve Bennett, also a Democrat who is termed out.  

The final deadline for registering with the Ventura County Clerk/Recorders office to be on the ballot is December 6 at 5 p.m.

“This election cycle is particularly important as Supervisor [Steve] Bennet and Supervisor [John] Zaragoza are termed out. We are working to raise awareness that the primary has moved to March and that supervisorial elections can be finished at that point,” said Auclair. The primary is usually in June, but has been moved to March 3, 2020, following the passage of statewide legislation signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. The club will meet to vote on endorsements in August.

Auclair said the GOOD Club is the official Democratic Party representative organization for Oxnard, Port Hueneme and the surrounding unincorporated areas, including El Rio and Silver Strand.

“In total, we represent nearly 50,000 Democrats. We are rather unique among the clubs in the county in that all three of the 2020 supervisorial races touch areas within our purview,” said Auclair. “District 1 covers the area around River Park. District 3 covers a part of south Oxnard, the entirety of Port Hueneme, and some of Oxnard near Hemlock. District 5 falls entirely within Oxnard.”

The GOOD Club Forum was an excellent opportunity “to discuss critical issues like accessibility, affordability and sustainability,” said Stephenson about the town hall meeting.  “People are sick of band-aid fixes. We need collaborative, long-term problem solving.”

As of deadline, the Ventura County Republican club did not respond to requests for comment. According to its website, the club is the official Republican Party representative organization in Ventura County “working directly with Ventura County’s local Republican candidates.” More information at www.venturagop.org.

The GOOD Club meets the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Fresh and Fabulous, 221 W. Fifth Street in Oxnard. Meetings are open to the public. More information at www.greateroxnarddemocrats.com.