The implications of the Gorell vs. Brownley race for California’s 26th Congressional District will be felt up and down the ticket on the November 2014 ballot in Ventura County, according to California Lutheran University’s veteran political watcher Herb Gooch.
The Business Times caught up with Gooch shortly after Camarillo Assemblymember Jeff Gorell, a Republican, announced that he, not Tony Strickland, would face off against first-term Congresswoman Julia Brownley.
Gooch thinks that in order to be competitive, Gorell will have to define the terms of the debate in areas such as preserving Naval Base Ventura County, promoting agriculture and economic development.
As a moderate Republican, Gorell could gain key votes from business owners but he also is on particularly good terms with organized labor. Agribusinesses will like his pro-immigration reform stance. In Gooch’s analysis, Gorell’s No. 1 focus should be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and he may have to push back against some outside groups that will want to pour money into the race to promote their own agendas.
And the money could be substantial. The Strickland-Brownley matchup of 2012 triggered $9 million in spending. If the 2014 race is viewed as tight, the numbers could speed past the $10-million mark.
Gooch thinks that even though some polling shows him with a slight lead, Gorell faces an uphill battle against Brownley’s built-in advantages with Hispanic voters and on social issues such as abortion and the environment. Brownley’s challenge, Gooch said, is to define the election along broad themes. “It’s jobs versus social issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Assembly seat Gorell will be leaving due either to term limits or a trip to Washington is trending more purple than red, says Gooch.
It is a seat that a pro-jobs Democrat such as Jason Hodge, current president of the Oxnard Harbor District board of commissioners, might be able to run in and win. If the name is slightly familiar, Hodge unsuccessfully ran for the state senate seat won by Hannah-Beth Jackson.
Handing one of the region’s most-contested Assembly seats in California to the Democrats would be a sea change for Ventura County and would signal that Sacramento is cemented more heavily as a one-party town.
Democrats can celebrate over taking a seat they haven’t held in a very long time. But others will take away a warning: One party rule in Sacramento has been known to lead to disaster, fiscal and otherwise.