So many races, so little time.
With the 2014 election cycle headed into the home stretch, it’s fairly clear that among the very few heavily contested elections there is a lot to learn about the future of politics in the region.
The first lesson is that women are playing an ever-larger role. In the three races we’ll be talking about in this column — the 26th Congressional District, the 44th Assembly District and 4th District race for Supervisor in San Luis Obispo County — five of the six candidates are women.
The second is that turnout is going to matter an awful lot in this election. That’s part of the reason former President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to Oxnard College on Oct. 29 to stump for 26th District Candidate Julia Brownley, a Democrat from Westlake Village. She faces a tough challenge winning a second term against 44th District Assemblymember Jeff Gorell, a very likeable moderate Republican who has a distinguished record of service as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
Without large turnout from heavily Democratic and Latino neighborhoods in Oxnard and elsewhere in Ventura County, Brownley’s race is likely going to be down to the wire. That’s not just my view: Real Clear Politics, one of the few national organizations following the race, makes that point on its website.
Likewise Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks Democrat and the favorite to replace Gorell in the assembly, needs a strong turnout from the same neighborhoods in the Oxnard plain to defeat Rob McCoy, the GOP candidate, a pastor from Ventura County who was little-known before the primary.
The third theme of this election is the polling power of centrist candidates. That’s the question incumbent Caren Ray is facing as she squares off against Lynn Compton, a relative newcomer who gets a lot of her support for the southern SLO County district from conservative organizations such as Colab.
Ray was appointed to her post by Gov. Jerry Brown when incumbent Paul Teixeira died suddenly last year. She’s impressed a number of people, including the editorial board at the San Luis Obispo Tribune, which gave her a ringing endorsement and noted her role as a powerful swing vote on a board that is split 2-2 between liberals and conservatives.
Irwin, one of the more pro-business voices on the Thousand Oaks city council, is a more centrist candidate than McCoy. To appeal to a broader base of Democrat voters, she has stressed her record on education and women’s issues.
McCoy recently has gotten big donations from the Republican Party coffers of SLO and San Bernardino counties in an effort to counter the more than $1 million that’s poured in from unions and others in support of the Irwin campaign. It is clear that the loss of one more seat in the General Assembly is something the GOP would like to avoid.
Brownley, who ran a successful campaign on social issues such as education two years ago, has been trying to broaden her credentials, particularly when it comes to securing money for Naval Base Ventura County.
Gorell has a compelling argument for sending him to join the majority in the House but he has to convince voters he’ll stick to his moderate guns if elected.
Money and party lines still count. But in the end, turnout will matter most. That’s certainly true as Ventura County picks a candidate for a rare open seat in the assembly and picks a House member who could be around for decades to come. And in the contentious race for 4th District Supervisor, turnout will matter a lot in San Luis Obispo County too.