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An eventful weekend; Dagnesses' report

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Monday morning reflections after a Friday night bombshell...

A WHOLE NEW DYNAMIC -- Friday evening's announcement by Ventura County Community College District Trustee Bernardo Perez that he had decided to drop out of the 44th Assembly District race has substantial implications for the upcoming primary season in Ventura County.

Perez had been the choice of many progressive Democrats and the preferred candidate of several west county activists, especially Latinos. Because Oxnard had been rendered largely irrelevant by the redistricting scheme of 2001, Latino activists had hoped that the 2011 plan, which increased Oxnard's clout in both legislative and congressional races, might at last pave the way for a Latino candidate to become competitive. In addition, resentment is strong that Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin -- the sole remaining Democrat -- had endorsed former Rep. Elton Gallegly for re-election. They consider that a personal insult to the Latino community because of Gallegly's strong anti-immigrant positions.

Perez' departure would appear to clear to the way for Irwin at a critical time. The Democrats' AD 44 endorsement caucus is Sunday.

Over the weekend, former congressional candidate David Cruz Thayne sent a strong message that he is now considering entering the race. Eary Sunday afternoon, he tweeted: "Real Democrats are begging me to stop GOP Jacqui, I might!"

Even if Thayne follows through, his timing his problematic. In order to be considered for the party endorsement this week, candidates were required to have submitted a registration form and filing fee to the state Democratic Party by 5 p.m. last Friday.

From the perspective of Republicans, the prospect of having Democrats united behind a single candidate during the primary must be disconcerting, especially since there remain three declared GOP candidates. If both Sean Paroski and Port Hueneme City Councilwoman Sylvia Munoz Schnopp remain in the race, there is a chance that they could split the vote among establishment Republican voters and strengthen the hand of Pastor Rob McCoy of Newbury Park, a conservative who is well connected with the tea party wing of the party.

While it would appear to be an uphill challenge for Democrats to capture that seat during a nonpresidential year, their prospect might be enhanced if the general election contest pitted a moderate Democrat from the Republican heart of the district (Irwin) against a tea party conservative.

Perez, by the way, was gracious and gentlemanly when I spoke to him late Friday. He seemed genuinely grateful for all that he had learned during his brief candidacy, and told me that he came out of the experience "re-energized" to carry on his long record of community and civic activism. He also noted that there may be future political opportunities that he will now be better prepared to seize. There was none of the sour-grapes mentality one typically hears from candidates' whose original hopes had been dashed.

DAGNESSES REPORT -- We now have a clue to the one of the most intriguing remaining questions concerning the upcoming 26th Congressional District primary: How much of a threat to Assemblyman Jeff Gorell will the candidacy of fellow Republican Rafael Dagnesses of Simi Valley pose?

As of late Friday, Dagnesses' campaign finance report was unavailable on the FEC website. He filed on paper, rather than electronically. It appears that his report could not be easily retrieved because, in entering the report electronically, an FEC employee had misspelled his name.

An alert reader tracked it down for me over the weekend. It shows that Dagnesses raised $35,790 during the fourth quarter of last year and began 2014 with $24,521 in the bank. His receipts incuded a $15,000 loan he made to his own campaign.

It represents a modest start, and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to raise enough money to wage a mail campaign in the primary that would force Gorell to spend a chunk of his resources during the primary season. The Republican National Congressional Committee apparently is not taking the primary for granted: It sponsored a robopoll within the last couple weeks in which it included Dagnesses in weighing voters' perceptions of the candidates.

IRWIN CLARIFICATION -- On Friday, I reported that Irwin had contributed $10,000 to her campaign in December and that a late contribution report filed last week indicated that a second $10,000 contribution had been made.

Irwin tells me that second report simply was filed because for accounting reasons. She intended the original $10,000 contribution to be a loan. Apparently the campaign returned the $10,000 contribution, and then reclassified the contribution as a loan. Bottom line: Irwin has put up only $10,000 of her own money for her campaign, and it is in the form of a loan.

BIG SPENDER, LITTLE SPENDER -- One detail that often goes unnoticed in these campaign finance reports is the amount of expenditures made by candidates. They can vary wildly. For instance, Democrat Lee Rogers in the 25th Congressional District reported raising $93,940 during the fourth quarter, but he also spent $86,686 -- mostly on consulting and fundraising fees. To some degree, it appears he is front-loading some of his campaign costs, such as establishing a decent website.

On the other end of the spectrum was Republican Sen. Steve Knight, who entered the race in December and even then, conditionally so. He said he intended to run only if Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon decided to retire at the end of this term. He also promised to return money to donors if McKeon chose to seek re-election.

Under those conditions, Knight raised $21,888. And how much did he spend? All of 187 dollars.

WATCHING THOSE FRACKING RULES -- Friday was also the day that lobbying groups had to report fourth quarter expenditures, and the Capitol Morning Report this morning lists the top ten spenders. Interesting that, at a time when the state Department of Conservation is putting together its regulations to implement Sen. Fran Pavley's bill to regulate fracking, that two of the top three spenders were the Western States Petroleum Association (No. 1, at $4.7 million) and Chevron Corp. (No. 3, at $4 million.).

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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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