A group of moderate Ventura County Republicans, some of whom have feuded for years with the conservative faction headed by Sen. Tom McClintock and former Assemblyman Tom Strickland, have formed a group called Moderate Republicans for Hannah-Beth Jackson.
Jackson, a Democrat, is running against Strickland for the 19th state Senate District seat now held by McClintock.
Among those behind the organization: Bob Larkin of Westlake Village, who ran unsuccessfully against McClintock for Assembly in 1996; former Supervisor Judy Mikels, who was defeated by McClintock in the 2000 primary for state Senate; and former Sen. Cathie Wright, who has openly fueded with McClintock for years; and former executive director of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association Jere Robings, who lost to Strickland in a 1998 primary.
Also in the group are Ventura School Board members Velma Lomax and John Walker -- two Republicans who signed up early on as Jackson supporters, saying they were impressed with her service when she represented Ventura in the Assembly. The inclusion of Lomax and Walker will make it more difficult for Strickland to dismiss the group as exclusively made up of past political opponents inspired by sour grapes.
Larkin has been a thorn in Strickland's side for years, perhaps most effectively at the 2006 state Republican convention. At that event, Larkin circulated fliers pointing out that Strickland had endorsed Democrat Jim Dantona over incumbent Republican Mikels for supervisor. Strickland, who was in the midst of a GOP primary campaign for controller at the time, recanted his endorsement shortly thereafter, shifting his support to a new candidate, fellow Republican Peter Foy.
In a press release announcing the group's formation, Larkin labels Strickland "an extremist" and says the group was formed "out of concern that Strickland is a man who is far removed from the beliefs and ethical standards held by the majority of people in our neighborhoods."
It's difficult to judge whether this effort will hurt Strickland, but if the Jackson campaign uses the group effectively it will make Strickland's task of persuading moderate Republicans in Santa Barbara County, where he is unkown, that he is one of them.
The group has created a website that invites other moderate Republicans to join in the effort.