Some notes about the election that was

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Now that I've wrapped up a column and a news story for the old-fashioned print edition of The Star, time to share some inside-baseball info with the political junkies at "95 percent accurate*" ...

THE VOTES THAT WILL REALLY MATTER -- In interviews with Julia Brownley and Tony Strickland today, both asserted they are well positioned to capture a large share of the more than 15,500 votes that went to Linda Parks on Tuesday. To be sure, those votes will be important, but of far more importance will be the votes of those who did not participate in the primary.

The turnout in Ventura County on Tuesday stands at 25 percent of registered voters, a figure that will grow only slightly after the late mail-in ballots are counted. On Nov. 6, based on historical voter participation in presidential elections, turnout will be somewhere between 70 percent and 75 percent. That means there will be two new voters for every repeat voter from the primary. It's not just a difference universe of voters that the candidates will have to appeal to, it's a different galaxy.

STRICKLAND'S WHEREABOUTS -- It was noted here last week that Strickland missed the daylong Senate floor session last Tuesday, during the frentic final week before the deadline to pass bills out of their house of origin. He told Senate staff he would be absent, citing unspecified personal business.

Strickland told me today that he was in Washington, D.C., last Tuesday to attend an event sponsored by national GOP leaders to introduce their 12 identified "Young Guns," the designation given to the challengers they consider to be the most promising. Although he did not hold a fundraiser while there, the event did have its rewards. A 48-hour campaign finance report filed late week revealed more than $50,000 in contributions from members of Congress and Washington-based political action committees.

IT'S THE WOMAN, STUPID -- You gotta give credit to Eileen MacEnery, the surprise Demcoratic winner in the 44th Assembly District on Tuesday. Unlike Marta Jorgensen, the surprise winner of the 2008 Democratic congressional primary in Ventura County, she did not try to ascribe her victory to having "gotten my message out" or having "a message that resonated with voters." Just as Jorgensen won only because she had a superior ballot designation ("Educator"), MacEnery won only because she was a woman and the other Democrat on the ballot who was also unfamiliar to most voters was a man.

She acknowledged that to my colleague Gretchen Wenner, who wrote the story on the race today.

MORE TROOPS TO THE BATTLEGROUND -- The 26th Congressional District was always going to be a California battleground in the fall election (assuming a Democratic candidate advanced that far), but it now appears it will be an even bigger one.

That's because of the stunning result in the Inland Empire's 31st Congressional District. Although that new district had been classified as "leans Democratic," a fierce, well-funded battle between two Republicans produced the surpise result of the two GOP candidates finishing first and second. Now, Democrats won't have a candidate there in the fall -- the so-called "nightmare scenario" of the top-two primary that Democrats feared was a possibility in the 26th.

So where will the Democratic and Republican troops and resources that might have been devoted to the 31st District this fall now go? One likely place is Ventura County.

A POLITICAL SKILL WE ALL COULD LEARN -- While interviewing the candidate at a Newbury Park restaurant today, a busboy came up to her, asked if she was Julia Brownley and then congratulated her.

Brownley's response: "And you must be Ramon."

He nodded, and walked away smiling.

"How did you know his name?" I asked.

"Employee name tag," she answered.

Some might dismiss that sort of thing as what they see as the typical fake sincerity of a politician. Me, I wish I could develop skills like that. No matter what the endeavor, a personal touch never hurts.

MY FRIEND HOWARD -- Rep. Elton Gallegly has been mostly silent about political affairs in Ventura County since announcing early this year that he will retire at the end of this term. But he made his voice heard in the primary race between Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman in the San Fernando Valley.

Gallegly wrote a "Dear Republican" letter that Berman mailed to GOP voters. It began:

"I have served in the U.S. Congress for almost 26 years. In those years, I have compiled a consistent voting record as a conservative. While there are tough and important decisions to make in the upcoming election, most believe that the race for Congress where you live will come down to a contest between two Democrats: Brad Sherman and Howard Berman.

"This is the first time I have written a letter in support of a Democrat. But U.S. Representative Howard L. Berman has a long history of working with Republicans toward sensible solutions to our country's problems, and he is respected for his honesty and dedication to his principles by Republicans as well as Democrats."


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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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