PICTURED: District Attorney Erik Nasarenko at an election night victory party. Photo submitted

by Alex Wilson

It’s rare for a June primary election to usher in so many new faces to countywide elected offices.  

Ventura County residents will soon have a new Sheriff, Assessor, County Clerk and Recorder and Treasurer-Tax Collector as a result of the June 7 vote. That’s due to several retirements and the defeat of an incumbent . . . which also happens infrequently. 

Voters also narrowed the choices for several races in the November election, including two open seats on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, U.S. Congress and California State Assembly.  And a hotly contested race regarding oil drilling regulations was narrowly defeated in a major win for oil companies that spent heavily on measures A and B.

Fryhoff, Nasarenko win

One of the most high-profile contests was for Ventura County Sheriff, where incumbent Bill Ayub lost to Cmdr. Jim Fryhoff. Fryhoff was boosted by support from unions representing deputies and other local peace officers.  

Jim Fryhoff with wife Traci and supporters on election night. Photo submitted

“My team was amazing. The support that we had from the community was evident when we were out walking precincts,” Fryhoff said. “What really resonated was letting people know our goal is to connect law enforcement with the community rather than being two separate entities. That we’re going to work together to keep Ventura County safe.”

Ayub said he and his supporters did not expect to see him trailing by over 10% when the first tally was announced. 

“We were surprised,” Ayub said. “We felt like we put a good case forward and ran a clean and honest and ethical campaign. And we’re certainly disappointed in the results.”

Another closely watched local contest was for District Attorney, where incumbent Erik Nasarenko beat his challenger John Barrick, a senior deputy DA who has prosecuted numerous homicide cases in recent years.

Barrick said he’s proud of his first run for office and that he was able to spread his campaign pledge to always put crime victims first. 

“I ran because I believed I needed to, to try to fix the things going wrong in the county and the state. And there aren’t too many people who can say that in their lives. That they stood up for something because they believed in it. And I can say that now,” Barrick said.

District Attorney Erik Nasarenko celebrates his victory. Photo submitted

Barrick told the Ventura County Reporter he hopes to continue working as a prosecutor but expected to be reassigned from handling murder trials — considered a top assignment in the DA’s office — after challenging his boss.

But Nasarenko said Barrick will not be reassigned after calling with congratulations and pledging support for the office.

“I said ‘I am delighted to have you. We’ve got a number of homicides that I would like for you to try.’ And I know that he is ready and extremely capable,” the District Attorney said.  

A and B defeated   

Backers of the Yes on A and B campaign were pleased with the showing even as they trailed on election night at their party at Topa Topa Brewing Company in Ventura. Photo submitted

 Measures A and B were narrowly defeated, so oil companies will not have to follow new environmental regulations adopted by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 2020.

Ben Oakley is campaign spokesperson for the “No on A and B” campaign who works for the Western States Petroleum Association, and explained what he thought resonated with voters. 

“Obviously energy costs are a major issue that everybody is feeling right now and obviously that’s a major motivating factor,” he said. “Also, dependence on foreign oil is very timely, I think, with all the world events.” 

Tomás Rebecchi is campaign manager for the “Yes on A and B” campaign who works with several environmental groups. He said they were proud of their ultimately unsuccessful effort that he described as “David and Goliath.” 

“It’s a tough uphill battle but I think we put up a really great fight and we gave big oil a black eye either way,” said Rebecchi. “The movement and our organization are stronger now than before this election. We created a lot of networks and friendships, and really learned how to make an effective countywide network to fight against this big of an industry. Win or lose we’re stronger, and it was worth fighting.”

“Experience matters”

In the race for County Clerk and Recorder, Michelle Ascencion handily beat Bruce Boyer and Jeff Hargleroad with about 65% of the vote, meaning she will not have to face a runoff in November.

Ascencion will be Ventura County’s first Black County Clerk-Recorder and only the second woman.

“It’s really exciting and it’s really humbling. It’s kind of an overused cliché, but I really do stand on the shoulders of the Black women who came before me, and have paved the way, and struggled through so many other industries,” Ascencion said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself too, because I’m just a local gal, grew up in south Oxnard. And to work my way up . . . it’s almost dizzying.”   

Results in the race for Assessor showed Keith Taylor defeated Bradley Coburn. Taylor received over 76% of the votes, and credits his victory to many years working for assessor’s offices in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“It was just a really exhilarating feeling, exciting feeling. I worked hard on the campaign to get elected and I felt a good relief afterwards,” he said. 

Sue Horgan learned she had been elected Treasurer Tax-Collector while at the California Association of County Treasurers-Tax Collectors meeting. Photo submitted

In the race for Treasurer Tax-Collector, the office’s second-in-command Sue Horgan beat Ron Speakman, a financial planner who serves on Camarillo’s Pleasant Valley School District board. Horgan was attending a conference for treasurer-tax collectors in San Diego when she saw the results.

“I think the voters really spoke in this election, and what they said is that experience matters,” she said.  

Ventura County Auditor-Controller Jeffery Burgh and County Superintendent of Schools Cesar Morales were also re-elected since they ran unopposed. 

November runoffs

Several races are headed to runoffs in November and the Ventura County Reporter will provide additional coverage of those races as the election approaches.

In the second District supervisorial race, Camarillo resident and former deputy mayor of Los Angeles Jeff Gorell will face off against Thousand Oaks Councilmember Claudia Bill-De la Peña. Gorell received about 37% of the vote and Bill-De la Peña nearly 49%, while the third candidate, Tim McCarthy, trailed with 14%.

Results in the fourth district race for supervisor, covering Simi Valley and Moorpark, will see two longtime elected officials compete in November: Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin and Ventura County Community College District Trustee Bernardo Perez. Parvin had nearly 34% of the vote while Perez received just over 27%. Ed Abele received almost 23% with Dean Kunicki garnering about 16%.      

In the race for the 38th Assembly district, incumbent Democrat Steve Bennett of Ventura received over 61% of the vote while his Republican challenger and Oxnard resident Cole Brocato came out with just over 35%. Daniel Wilson, who stated no party preference, had nearly 4%.

Democratic incumbent Jacqui Irwin will run against Republican Lori Mills for the 42nd Assembly district covering Thousand Oaks and surrounding areas. Irwin received over 54% percent of the votes, Mills had about 29%, and 16% favored Republican Ted Nordblum. 

In the race for the 24th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Salud Carbajal received over 61% and will go up against Brad Allen, who had the support of about 30% of voters. Michele R. Weslander Quaid had nearly 6% and Jeff Frankenfield had less than 2%. Carbajal and Allen both live in Santa Barbara County, but following the recent redistricting, the district includes Ventura and Ojai.

And in the 26th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Julia Brownley will face off against Republican Matt Jacobs. Brownley had the support of more than 55% of voters, while Jacobs finished with nearly 38%. Three other candidates, Dave Goodman, Paul Nathan Taylor and Fadde Mikhail had less than 7% combined. 

The newly redrawn 26th Congressional district includes Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Calabasas.