by Kimberly Rivers

An informed electorate exercising their right to vote is necessary for a strong democracy. Here is a quick reference guide to the races and candidates on the ballot in Ventura County.  

Seats in the U.S. House of Representatives up for grabs

The country has 435 congressional districts, from which one person is elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for two-year terms. California has 53 congressional districts, four fall in Ventura County.

Congressional District 24

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, all of the Los Padres National Forest and northern Ventura County, West Ventura northwest of Highway 33 and the coastal area in the city of Ventura.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal

Democratic incumbent Rep. Salud Carbajal was first elected in 2017 and recent actions include voting to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump and voting in favor of the War Powers Resolution to restrict the powers of the president regarding military actions against Iran. Carbajal’s top issues include protecting health care and lowering prescription drug costs, promoting a strong economy by supporting job creation and workers, and preserving the Central Coast’s environment. Carbajal serves on the House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.

Andy Caldwell

Running in an attempt to unseat Carbajal is Andy Caldwell, a registered Republican, whose top issues include ending corruption, opposing efforts to ban private health insurance, and addressing homelessness by helping those who help themselves. Caldwell founded the first Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) in Santa Barbara and later helped to form COLABs in Ventura County and other central coast areas. He has appeared at public hearings in Santa Barbara speaking in favor of plans to drill 760 new oil wells in the Cat Canyon area. At campaign events he has been critical of Carbajal’s vote in favor of impeaching the president.

Kenneth Young

A third independent candidate, Kenneth Young of Santa Barbara, names energy independence through developing clean and affordable energy technology, infrastructure revitalization, fiscal responsibility and healthcare as top priorities.

Congressional District 25 — a race to watch

Simi Valley made national headlines in the 2018 election when newcomer Democrat Katie Hill unseated then-incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Knight. In early 2019, Hill resigned after nude photographs of her were made public.

Assmb. Christy Smith

Two votes need to be cast: first, to elect a candidate to finish out Hill’s term in the current congressional session, and then to elect a representative to start the next congressional session on Jan. 3, 2021. Voters will need to mark their chosen candidate twice for the current congressional session and the next session.

Mike Garcia

Democratic state Assemblymember Christy Smith (Dist. 38) is running for the open congressional seat against first-time candidate Republican Mike Garcia.

Smith, of Newhall, lists improving public education, safe communities and making healthcare more affordable and accessible as the top three issues on her platform. Endorsements for Smith include the Simi Valley Democratic Club, the Central Coast Labor Council, Indivisible CA-25 Simi Valley-Porter Ranch and the California League of Conservation Voters. Smith has signed the pledge to not accept fossil fuel money.

Garcia, a resident of Valencia, lists national security, term limits and eliminating the national debt as top issues. He works for Raytheon and is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, flying the F/A-18 aircraft in 30 combat missions in operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Endorsements for Garcia include Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten, the Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, former Republican state senator and Assemblymember Tony Strickland.

Cenk Uyger

Cenk Uygur is a founder and host of the progressive YouTube show The Young Turks, and also founded the Justice Democrats and a national movement called Wolf Pac to bring about a constitutional convention aimed at ensuring election integrity. His campaign priorities are ending corruption in politics, higher wages and healthcare.

Congressional District 26

Most of Ventura County, including Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Moorpark, parts of Simi Valley and most of Ventura.

U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley

Incumbent Democrat, Rep. Julia Brownley lists increasing opportunities for middle class families, bringing down health care costs and making higher education more affordable as her top three issues. In the past week she has voted in favor of impeaching Trump and spoke on Feb. 1 at the opening of the Democratic Party Headquarters in Camarillo.

“Ventura County Dems are stronger than we’ve ever been before…what our job will be now is to make sure that we convict Trump at the ballot polls.” Brownley emphasized the importance of electing democrats at all levels of government. “We are gonna win in our state houses, counties and our cities…we are going to make him really hurt.”

Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy

Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, a Ventura County-based attorney and small business owner, has been endorsed by the Ventura County and California Republican Party (online story updated after print deadline). Baldwin-Kennedy lists the opioid crisis, jobs and the economy, and border security-illegal immigration as main issues she is running to address.

Robert Salas

Robert Salas, a Democrat and resident of Ojai, lists reforming public education, immigration and addressing global warming as his main issues. He is a veteran of the Air Force serving seven years active duty in Vietnam, and later worked at the American Embassy in Jakarta as a special advisor on aviation. He is a published author of Unidentified: The UFO Phenomenon and has testified with other air force veterans on the issue of UFO incidents at U.S. nuclear weapons bases around the world.

Congressional District 30

This district is mostly in the San Fernando Valley but includes an eastern area of the Simi Hills.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman

Rep. Brad Sherman, the Democrat incumbent, was elected in 2012, and recently supported the bipartisan efforts to recommit the country to a nuclear nonproliferation plan, and has recently moved for new Federal Aviation Association rules for helicopters to improve safety following the recent helicopter crash that killed nine people, including basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter. His platform lists fixing the economy, standing up to Wall Street and protecting social security and Medicare as top priorities.

Raji Rab

Raji Rab, a registered Democrat, is a pilot who previously owned a flight school and airline. Rab names fighting corruption, ensuring election integrity, quality education and student debt relief as top aims of his platform. He has recently participated in local marches against military action in Iran and opposing for-profit immigrant child detention centers.

Mark Reed, a Republican, his website lists the economy, access to quality healthcare and the Second Amendment as the major issues he’d address

Mark Reed

first. Reed emphasizes the importance of dealing with homelessness as a mental health issue and has an extensive plan for intensive treatment centers. Reed has a podcast “Voice of Reason” where he discusses important issues with a “southern democrat,” and says it is an example of “civility missing in politics” today. He started and sold several businesses by his early 30’s and today is a National Representative for American Indians, advocating for diverse representation in the media, including television networks and movie studios. He is endorsed by the Ventura County Republican Party, candidate for U.S. Congress, District 25 Mike Garcia and former Rep. Steve Knight. (edited online after print deadline).


The California state legislature is made up of two houses — the Senate and the Assembly. The state is divided into 40 senatorial districts and 80 assembly districts.

Assmb. Monique Limon

Senate District 19 — a race to watch

District 19 covers most of Ventura County, excluding a strip in the eastern portion of the county.

The incumbent, Democratic Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson has termed out, leaving the seat up for grabs.

Gary Michaels

Democrat Assemblymember Monique Limón (Dist. 27) has served in the assembly as chair of the Banking and Finance Committee and as a member on the Health Committee. Her platform puts environment, health and women in the top three spots, and her bid for senate includes endorsements from the California League of Conservation Voters, California Professional Firefighters and California Environmental Justice Alliance. Local groups endorsing Limón include CAUSE Action Fund, Greater Oxnard Organization Democratic Club and the Ventura County Women’s Political Committee, a multi-partisan organization.

Anastasia Stone

Republican Gary Michaels of Santa Maria lists climate change, affordable housing and improving infrastructure as the issues he’d address if elected. Endorsements include the Ventura County Republican Party.

Anastasia Stone is not registered with a party and has a background in early childhood education and today teaches at a midwifery school focused on educating underserved populations. Her platform lists education, homelessness and healthcare and key issues that need to be addressed.

Senate District 27

Eastern Ventura County including Bell Canyon, Moorpark, Oak Park, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.

State Sen. Henry Stern

Incumbent Democrat Sen. Henry Stern, a resident of Malibu, was elected in 2016 and is seeking his second term. Stern has authored legislation to improve transparency around the large gas leak at Aliso Canyon/Porter Ranch that led to thousands having to evacuate their homes. Committees he sits on include the Energy, Utilities and Communications, and Judiciary.

Houman Salem

Republican Houman Salem, a son of Iranian immigrants, is endorsed by the Ventura County Republican Party and Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association. The top three issues on his platform are homelessness and public safety, taxes and Prop 13, and fixing the new law (Assembly bill 5) restricting when independent contractors can be hired.


Four assembly districts cover parts of Ventura County: Districts 37, 38, 44 and 45.

Assembly District 37 — a race to watch.

Santa Barbara County and the majority of Ventura County, excluding the southern and south/eastern portions.

The incumbent, Limón, is switching legislative houses and running for the state Senate, leaving the assembly seat up for grabs to seven candidates: Jonathan Abboud, Stephen A. Bennett, Stephen Blum, Charles W. Cole, Jason Dominguez, Elsa Granados and Cathy Murillo.

Charles Cole

Cole is the lone registered Republican in the race, and is endorsed by the Ventura County Republican Party (online story updated after print deadline). The California Republican Party confirmed they have not endorsed any candidates in this race.

Bennett and Murillo are both registered Democrats. Bennett, current Ventura County Supervisor for Dist. 1, declared his candidacy late in the race. Murillo, current mayor of Santa Barbara, expressed her intent and declared early.

Trustee Jonathan Abboud

Abboud’s campaign has been getting in front of voters and appears to be speaking to younger voters throughout the district, receiving an endorsement by the Ventura County Young Democrats. He has served for five years as a trustee on the Santa Barbara City College District Board (SBCCDB) and names quality education for all as the top pillar of his platform, saying climate change must be stopped and the Green New Deal implemented to build a sustainable economy.

“We can talk about improving schools from teacher pay to the lunchroom, and we can talk about the urgency in developing and managing fire disaster systems, but I think fundamentally these issues are not solved if we do not acknowledge the truth that Ventura is the only county in California that has faced economic decline in the past few years,” said Abboud. “That’s an issue that effects every single family and the funding that goes to our schools and other needed services.”

About something he’s very proud of that he’s accomplished while in office with the SBCCDB he pointed to last year’s changes in the state allocating funding for community colleges. “In this dire situation some other board members wanted to go straight to laying off employees to solve the deficit. I thought drastic action like that was not right by our hardworking staff members, but would also hurt the educational success of our students. I fought to build a slim board majority to reject the layoffs and work towards closing the deficit by making sure we qualify for more state funding and raising revenue by renting unused space on campus.” 

Abboud has signed the pledge to not accept any fossil fuel money.

Sup. Steve Bennett

Bennett’s platform focuses on protecting the quality of life in the area through maintaining natural and open spaces, dealing with climate change and fiscal responsibility. He is endorsed by the Sierra Club and California Professional Firefighters. Increasing public school funding and addressing campaign finance issues are also key goals. He said he was most proud of the work he had done protecting open space in the county through the SOAR legislation, but wished he could have done more with local campaign finance reform.

“I wish [Ventura County’s] campaign finance reform efforts would have made it readily apparent for the public to see the corrosive influence of big money in politics,” he said. “But it is not stopping the oil industry from funding a million dollar campaign to buy control of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. They are attempting to overwhelm candidates Kim Stephenson and Carmen Ramirez with their massive spending. I hope the public sees through a million dollars of lies and distortions in the next few weeks.” Bennett is referring to one oil company, California Resources Corp., that has contributed approx. $850,000 to a political action committee to support and oppose specific candidates for Ventura County Supervisor.

(Print version contained a typo in the name of Carmen Ramirez, online version corrected after press deadline)

“We need to rapidly agree on policy changes that result in making truly affordable housing available, solidify a health care system that protects all of us, properly fund our public schools and implement the challenging carbon reduction policies we need to do our part in this global battle,” he continued.

Mayor Cathy Murillo

Murillo, is the current mayor of the city of Santa Barbara, serving on the city council since 2012, and lists protecting the environment, improving public education and creating economic opportunity as her top three focuses. A former reporter in Ventura County in the late 1990s, she lived in Ventura for two years and Thousand Oaks for one year while reporting on environmental issues. She knows climate change is a top issue that must be dealt with but sees housing as something people grapple with daily.

Everyone is “concerned about climate resiliency, but on the ground I think housing security is what gives people pain on a day to day basis,” said Murillo. “Young people have a hard time finding a stable housing situation. That is a huge challenge.”

As for the first step in addressing the housing issue if elected to the assembly, she “would work with other assembly members… and government officials to create incentives and reward cities and counties to meet their [state] housing mandates. There has to be a way for local government to meet their housing needs in their own way.”

She has garnered endorsements from the Ventura County Women’s Political Committee, a multi-partisan organization, and former Assemblymember and state superintendent of education, Jack O’Connell.

The Ventura County League of Women Voters is hosting the Assembly Dist. 37 Candidate Forum on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at Balboa Middle School, 247 S. Hill Road, Ventura.

Assembly District 38 — a race to watch

This district is mostly in Los Angeles County but reaches west to include most of Simi Valley.

Suzette Valladares

Christy Smith, the incumbent for the district, is running for U.S. Congress Dist. 25.

The candidates on the ballot for Dist. 38 are: Dina Cervantes, Annie Cho, Kelvin Driscoll, Brandii Grace, Suzette Valladares and Luci Volotzky.

Valladares, a registered Republican from Santa Clarita, lists liberty, limited government and self-reliance as the main values she supports. Her background is in early childhood education and today works for a faith-based nonprofit preschool called Little Steps of Faith in Sylmar. She is endorsed by the Ventura County Republic Party (online story updated after print deadline).

Annie Cho

Cho, a registered Democrat, lives in Porter Ranch and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1971 from South Korea. She is endorsed by the Democratic Club of Ventura and the Ventura County Women’s Political Council, a bipartisan organization.

Dina Cervantes

Cervantes is endorsed by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and puts public education and access to quality healthcare at the top of her platform.

The Ventura County League of Women Voters is hosting an Assembly Dist. 38 Candidate Forum, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 7-9 p.m., Simi Valley City Hall, 2929 Tapo Canyon Rd., Simi Valley.

Assembly District 44

Mostly in Ventura County. Includes nearly 80 percent of the population of Oxnard, as well as Camarillo, Port Hueneme and Thousand Oaks; and the communities of Oak Park, Casa Conejo, Channel Islands Beach, El Rio, Lake Sherwood and Santa Rosa Valley.

Assmb. Jacqui Irwin

Democratic incumbent Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin was first elected to this seat in 2014 after serving as mayor of Thousand Oaks. In the Assembly Irwin chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee and serves on several committees including the Agriculture Committee and Business and Professions Committee. Two bills she authored in the wake of the Borderline shooting strengthen gun violence restraining orders (AB12) and require information on the National Suicide Prevention program and hotline be included on gun packaging (AB645). Both became law last year.

Denise Pedrow

Republican Denise Pedrow, from Newbury Park, has lived in the county for 20 years and says the supermajority in Sacramento is not listening to the “regular people” of the state. Other major issues she will address if elected include over-regulation and reduction of “Constitutional Freedoms,” Pedrow is endorsed by the Ventura County Republican Party (online story updated after print deadline).

Assmb. Jesse Gabriel

Assembly District 45

Most of the district is in Los Angeles County. The Bell Canyon community is the only area in Ventura County in Dist. 45.


The Democratic incumbent, Jesse Gabriel of Encino, is running unopposed for this seat he’s held since 2018.

Ventura County Superior Court, two seats open 

The court system is our third branch of government. Our communities need skilled and objective judges to oversee and fairly decide a myriad of cases in matters such as land use, juvenile matters, business disputes, environmental protection, domestic violence, family law, custody, murder and traffic accidents.

Superior Court Seat 2

Catherine Voelker

Catherine Voelker is a Senior Deputy Attorney with the Ventura County District Attorney and has been licensed to practice law in California for 15 years. She has garnered endorsements from officials throughout Ventura County, including Keith Mashburn, the mayor of Simi valley, Bill Ayub of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Michael Bradbury, formerly with the Ventura County District Attorney’s office, now retired.

In 2011 Voelker was in the news due to an email that indicated the DA’s office tracked the number of cases that went to trial and rewarded those attorneys who had the most. The DA said no such award system existed, but the email showed a different story.  (“Former prosecutors say DA’s office held trial competitions for years,” Raul Hernandez, Ventura County Star, Dec. 2, 2011)

Martin Zaehringer

Martin G. Zaehringer, whose law practice has been based in Oxnard, has been a practicing trial attorney since 1981, primarily in criminal defense. In terms of his approach in the courtroom, he lists impartiality as a key aspect of his judicial approach, and respecting people’s time. In 2008 he received the Ventura County Bar Association, Joyce Yoshioka Award for his contribution to the criminal justice system, including educating students and the public.

Superior Court Seat 8

Paul Baelly


Paul W. Baelly has been licensed in the state for 15 years, and since 2006 has been with the Ventura County Public Defender’s office representing clients in a variety of cases. In 2017 he was selected to be a commissioner in the court and has presided over various types of cases, receiving an award in 2012 from the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission.

Steve Pell


Steve Pell of Ventura has been licensed to practice law since 1976, serving in several clerkships with judges then entering private practice, primarily as a trial attorney. Pell has served as a Judge Pro-Tem, mediator and arbitrator with the Ventura Municipal and Superior Courts since 1981.




Early voting happening now: As of Feb. 4 any registered voter in the county can cast their votes Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the County Elections Office, downstairs at the Ventura County Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. 

You can still register to vote: The last day to register to vote for the March 3 primary election is Feb. 18. You can register online at Register in person at the Ventura County Elections Office, downstairs at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. 

Candidate forums and ongoing coverage: See our Happenings section for candidate forums this week and check next week’s issue (Feb. 13) for info on measures and propositions on the March ballot and on Feb. 20 we’ll do a rundown on all Ventura County Supervisor races. (edited Feb. 7, 2020)

Got election/campaign news tips? For this election cycle the VCReporter will not be endorsing candidates but will work to inform the community about all the local races, propositions and cover campaign events as best as we can. Do you have a “need to know” question about a candidate? Or do you have election-related news tip or campaign press release to share? Send them in an email with “VC Election 2020” in the subject line to Kimberly Rivers at