Pictured: From left: Kim Marra Stephenson, candidate for Ventura County Supervisor (Dist – 3), and Carmen Ramirez, Mayor ProTem for the City of Oxnard, candidate for Ventura County Supervisor (Dist – 5), at the Latino Issues Forum in Santa Paula on Oct. 29, 2019. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. Video of forum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3LBUfWCjOQ

by Kimberly Rivers


Before the distractions of turkey, trees and gifts, take a minute to get informed about local races and the upcoming first round of voting in March 2020.

VC voter demographics

Ventura County’s population is about 847,834 (most recent data from 2017, 2019 State of the Region Report, Ventura County Civic Alliance), and has 453,869 registered voters. 108,074 of those voters are not affiliated with any party. With 131,982 registered Republicans and 183,459 registered Democrats, the unaffiliated voters could cause a major swing in a given race. 30,354 voters are registered with other parties (Ventura County Elections on Nov. 25, 2019).

March 3, 2020 primary

In just over three months Ventura County voters will cast votes for candidates in local, state and national offices. Some of those races won’t be decided until November, with the March election serving as a gateway to the November ballot. But some races will end in March.

The election on March 3, 2020, is called the presidential primary, but votes will also be cast for local races like county supervisor.

The primary in California is structured so that the two top vote getters in the primary advance on to the November ballot in the general election. Party restrictions for primary elections mean that for larger, party affiliated races, like the presidential race, some voters can only cast votes for candidates in their party.

In California the Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent (this is different than no- party-affiliation or decline-to-state) party allow any registered voter to vote in the primary for their candidates. Voters can request the party ballot, either by mail with the postcard they will receive if registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, or at their polling place. In contrast, the Republican Party only allows declared Republican voters to cast a vote for their candidates in the primary election.

However, that distinction only applies to the presidential race, meaning that in all other races, including Congressional and Legislative, all voters will see all candidates on their primary ballot.

In certain races, like county supervisor, the primary election could decide the overall winner. According to officials at the Ventura County Clerk’s office, Elections Division, if a candidate for County Supervisor receives 51% (or higher) of the vote count, they are the winner and the election is decided. But if no candidate receives 51% of the vote, then the top two vote getters will advance to the November ballot.

Kelly Long, Ventura County Supervisor (Dist-3) incumbent and candidate. At public hearing in March 2019. Photo by Kimberly Rivers.

County Supervisor Candidates

County supervisors made a wide variety of decisions about the unincorporated areas between the cities including zoning, housing and development, water management and waste handling. The supervisors oversee the county medical services, Air Pollution Control District, Environmental Health and fire and law enforcement departments.

As of press deadline the candidates for county supervisor are: District 1 (Ventura, Ojai areas) Matt LaVere, Mayor of Ventura. Two other candidates are listed: Monica Gray, a resident of Ventura, and Jeff Ketelsen of Ojai, listed as a “hardware clerk.” Gray confirmed she is no longer running due to family needs and failure to obtain enough signatures. The incumbent, Supervisor Steve Bennett has termed out and is unable to seek re-election.

For District 3 (Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Camarillo, Port Hueneme and generally the Oxnard areas outside city limits), incumbent Kelly Long, will be defending her seat against Kim Marra Stephenson. Both candidates from Camarillo.

The final Supervisor seat up for grabs is District 5, which generally includes the city of Oxnard. Incumbent John Zaragoza is termed out, but has announced he will be seeking the Mayoral seat on the Oxnard City Council (on the Nov., 2020 ballot). Four candidates are vying for the Dist. 5 seat: Carmen Ramirez, current Mayor ProTem of Oxnard and an attorney focusing on social security disability, consumer matters and immigration; Jeffrey Burum, a retired accountant and U.S. Air Force veteran; Veronica Robles Solis, current President of the Oxnard School Board of Trustees, and finally Tim Flynn, Mayor of Oxnard is seeking the seat, previously held by his father, John Flynn, who lost the seat to Zaragoza in 2008 after holding it since 1972.

Register or re-register before Feb. 18, 2020

Eligible voters have until Feb. 18, 2020, to register online for by mail for the March 3 primary election. Voters can conditionally register at their polling places on election day, but those votes will take longer to count as the registration has to be veriried.

To register online or to edit party affiliation visit: registertovote.ca.gov/.