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New landscape in 44th AD race, Tony the Target and more

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Looks like folks are getting serious about this election coming up...

THE POST-JASON PRIMARY: With Jason Hodge deciding not to run in the 44th Assembly District, the Democratic field now seems to be set at two, but Democrats still seem to be a long way from consensus in choosing between Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin and Community College District Trustee Bernardo Perez.

Indicative of that was the fact that the Central Labor Council couldn't reach a decision at its meeting this month -- and that was with Hodge still a possibility -- and has scheduled a reconsideration of the endorsement at its Feb. 5 meeting. As always in Democratic politics, the support of labor could be significant.

Irwin has already secured the support of the United Food & Commercial Workers, but the backing of the Labor Council and that of other individual unions remains up in the air. Perez' standing in the labor community took a hit last year when he was on the losing end of a 3-2 board vote to approve a contract for community college teachers. Irwin, who appears to have developed a good working relationship with city employee unions in Thousand Oaks, is hampered by the fact that those unions are by and large disconnected from other labor groups around the county. It will take a two-thirds vote for either to secure the Labor Council endorsement, and it remains to be seen whether either can reach that threshold.

Meanwhile, Perez has retained the same political consultant used by Assemblyman Das Williams, and because of that has a day-to-day campaign manager who is familiar with Ventura County. In a two-Democrat primary field, his potential ability to generate support from Latino voters and progressives attracted to his work on such causes as the living wage movement mean that he may be able to compete against Irwin, who most observers see as the favorite. The major question remains whether Perez will be able to raise sufficient money to wage a credible campaign.

Irwin picked up a significant endorsement from Supervisor Kathy Long of Camarillo.

On the Republican side, we'll know a whole lot more when the Jan. 31 fundraising reports are released. Pastor Rob McCoy told me right after New Year's that he'd had little trouble raising money so far, but it's unclear how high he set the bar of expectations. Sean Paroski of Camarillo had the earliest start among the GOP candidates, and might be able to tap into some of former Sen. Tony Strickland's donors. Strickland has endorsed Paroski, telling me this week that because Paroski had worked for many years for both him and his wife, "he's family." Port Hueneme City Councilwoman Sylvia Munoz Schnopp is an unknown in the fundraising department.

TONY THE TARGET (AGAIN): There's something about Strickland that seems to inspire Internet-based needling. For a while there was a fake "Tony the Strickland" website that had mischievous political fun at his expense. And already in his campaign in the 25th Congressional District, a Santa Clarita-based blogger has posted an entry with the Onion-like headline, "Guy Runs for Congress, Hates District."

The post features a video of a Strickland campaign ad from two years ago in which, trying to distinguish himself from Rep. Julia Brownley, who Strickland sought to paint as an L.A.-based carpetbagger, Strickland makes implied derogatory remarks about Los Angeles County. In the ad, he says, "Ventura County is a world away from Los Angeles. Things are different here. We care about our neighbors."

That sort of thing likely wouldn't play too well in the district he's running in now -- one in which more than 80 percent of the voters live in L.A. County.

Meanwhile, Democrat Lee Rogers of Simi Valley issued a news release today claiming that he has taken in 1,200 new financial contributions just in the week since Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon announced his impending retirement.

In the release, Rogers couldn't resist taking a dig at both Strickland and the other major Republican candidate, Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale. For background, it needs to be noted that Knight was elected to the Assembly in 2008, moved up to the state Senate in 2012 and is now running for Congress in 2014. In addition, it needs to be noted that McKeon has endorsed Strickland.

"Republicans would like to fill the void with one of their own hand-picked, career Sacramento politicians," the Rogers news release says. "The one tapped by McKeon is a serial losing candidate who can't decide which district he wants to represent and the other can't decide which office he wants to hold -- Assembly, state Senate, or Congress."

As noted at the beginning of this post, it looks like folks are starting to get serious.

THE 26TH DISTRICT CANDIDATE RUNNING FOR VICE PRESIDENT: In a post on Facebook, Douglas Kmiec announces -- at least sort of -- that he intends to run in the 26th Congressional District as a no-party-preference candidate.

But he gets to that point in a rather roundabout way, by claiming that his true political desire is to run for vice president with his former State Department boss, Secretary Hillary Clinton.

"I suspect that if I emulate with sincerity the holy father's sense of joy and humility possibilities of helping Mrs. Clinton, my former boss of State Department, will become readily apparent," Kmiec writes. "If not, however, there is much to do in particular, I am presently seeking a seat in Congress from the California 26th Congressional District."

With that sort of back-door announcement, we'll have to wait and see whether Ambassador Kmiec is serious.

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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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