Based on the new report of registration issued by the secretary of state last week, it is clear Republicans are engaging new troops for the coming battleground elections in Ventura County.
Between Jan. 3 and April 6, the report shows, Republicans closed the voter registration gap with Democrats in the county by 0.79 percentage points and now trail by less than 2 percentage points countywide -- 38.98 percent for Democrats, 37.13 percent for Republicans.
Significantly, most of the gains came in the new 26th Congressional District. Over that three-month period, the number of registered voters in that district grew by 2,734 -- and nearly all of the gains were among Republicans, who increased their number by 2,583. Because of that, the Democrats' voter-registration edge dropped by nearly a full percentage point, from 5.63 percent to 4.74 percent.
The GOP gains appear to be the result of a targeted effort, as the county trends bucked the statewide trend, which saw the biggest increase among "no party preference" voters. In Ventura County, that number of independent voters barely budged.
The biggest Republican gains came in the Democratic stronghold of Oxnard, which for the first time in a decade this year is a city in which Republican candidates will be challenged to minimize certain losses there. Republicans gained 652 voters in Oxnard, more than they picked up in Ventura and Thousand Oaks combined.
The numbers suggest there are real advantages to having a party united behind a single candidate in the 26th Congressional District (Tony Strickland), the 19th Senate District (Mike Stoker) and the 44th Assembly District (Jeff Gorell). Democrats have multiple candidates in each of those districts and to a large degree -- especially in the 19th Senate District -- have been consumed with intraparty food fights, rather than with registering voters.