Yesterday's decision by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell to challenge Rep. Julia Brownley next year in Ventura County's 26th Congressional District creates a rare political opportunity -- an unexpectedly open, competitive legislative seat in the 44th Assembly District. Typically, because of term limits, openings in the Legislature are anticipated years in advance, and various potential candidates begin jockeying for position years ahead of time.
The first Democrat to pounce is Jason Hodge, a member of the Oxnard Harbor District Board of Commissioners. Hodge told me today that he is definitely in. "I love Ventura County. I love where I grew up, and I feel that it's time we had a solid advocate," he said. "We need someone who can push forward our area."
Hodge, a firefighter, ran unsuccessfully in the 19th Senate District primary last year. Another 2012 candidate (in the 26th Congressional District race), Westlake Village businessman and former professional tennis player David Cruz Thayne , also informed me via text message early this evening that he "seriously considering running."
On the Republican side, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce executive Sean Paroski told me this evening that he has opened a committee and launched a campaign. Paroski, 32, was an aide to former Sen.Tony Strickland for four years before joining the chamber a year ago. He is a Ventura County native and graduated from Cal State Northridge in 2007 -- with a degree in mathematics.
Beyond that, there's a whole lot of name-dropping going on -- some of it very wrong.
For instance, blogger Scott Lay, in his "Nooner" email newsletter today, dropped the name of Democratic Supervisor John Zaragoza of Oxnard (even though Lay misspelled his name). But when I called Zaragoza this afternoon, his response was, "Absolutely not." Zaragoza said his political plans are definite: complete the remaining two years on current term as supervisor and then to seek one additional term. "We're getting things done here," he said.
Another name that I heard floated was Moorpark Councilman David Pollock, who also shot down that idea when he told me today he has no plans to enter the race. Two other Democrats whose names have been dropped, but whom I haven't reached for response, are Oxnard Federation of Teachers President Wes Davis and former schoolteacher Eileen MacEnery, the party's 2012 candidate.
On the Republican side, in addition to Paroski, one name has been mentioned by sources I deem credible. She is Port Hueneme City Councilwoman Sylvia Munoz Schnopp.
Gorell's district director Ernie Villegas, who is the assemblyman's former business partner and also a former Fillmore city councilman, would also be a logical possibility, but it is not clear at this point whether he has any interest.
The name-dropping phase won't last long. The filing deadline is March 7, and this is going to be at least a million-dollar race. Anyone who waits for more than another few days is going to find himself or herself starting from behind.