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from Timm Herdt:

PUTTING CANDIDATES IN A BOX - Assemblyman Jeff Gorell has about as much a relationship with House Speaker John Boehner today as then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley had with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back in 2012. Which is to say, almost no relationship at all.

But as Republican Gorell officially kicked off his campaign for Congress today, he is learning what Democrat Brownley learned in 2012 - your opponent will try to paint you as a clone of whatever national congressional figure most stirs the passions of viewers of Fox News or MSNBC. Brownley discovered that when the first attack piece about her in 2012 campaign featured oversized images of her and Pelosi standing like King Kong and Godzilla overlooking the Los Angeles skyline.

In a fundraising email sent last week, Brownley seeks to turn the tables. She appeals to donors to open their pocketbooks because, "My opponents and their outside backers would love to replace me with another anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-senior vote in Boehner's Tea Party majority."

The fact is that Gorell is no particular friend of the tea party. In fact, one of the reasons he says he's running is to try to redirect the GOP from its tea party image. It is likely true, however, that there will be outside groups much aligned with tea party thinking that will spend big money this year bashing Brownley and, by extension, trying to help Gorell.

Voters can expect that both candidates will do their best to de-nationalize the campaign in the 26th Congressional District, portraying themselves and independent problem-solvers far removed from the ugly ideological divide in Washington. At the same time, as Brownley has shown in this fund-raising email, they will try to fire up the true believes in their parties - and donors - by portraying their opponents as partisan bogeymen.

Welcome to congressional politics, Mr. Gorell.

GROW ELECT BEEFS UP - The Republican group called GROW Elect, which seeks to promote diversity among GOP candidates, announced this week the backing of former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the Stanford professor who is the most prominent African-American in the national party. This group, headed by former San Mateo County Supervisor Ruben Barrales, is backing Port Hueneme City Councilwoman Sylvia Munoz Schnopp, a Latina, in the 44th Assembly District race.

In a statement announcing her endorsement of the group's efforts, Rice wrote: "The future of the Republican Party requires connecting with the growing diversity of United States citizens no matter their race, religion, ethnicity or sex."

'MEDICAL DIPLOMACY' - 25th Congressional District Democratic candidate Lee Rogers of Simi Valley just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia that he called an exercise in "medical diplomacy."

Rogers, a podiatrist who works with diabetic patients facing the possibility of amputation of their extremities, met with vascular surgeons and medical students to talk about how to combat medical problems arising from the country's high rate of diabetes.

"I firmly believe that diplomacy, and especially 'medical diplomacy,' is the key to ensuring a safer United States for our children's future."

FOLLOWING A HAWK'S FLIGHT PATH - 25th Congressional District candidate Tony Strickland, who seeks to replace the retiring Howard "Buck" McKeon and has the backing of the incumbent, is signaling that he intends to pick up where McKeon , chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, leaves off as a military hawk who advocates for defense spending.

Strickland, who filed his candidacy papers today, issued a statement this week strongly denouncing the Obama administration's plans to scale back defense spending. "I stand with Chairman McKeon in opposing this misguided policy that will hinder our military's ability to keep us safe," he said.

Strickland also picked up the endorsement of another well-known military hawk: Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who said he was proud to endorse Strickland because "these are dangerous times."

FUNDRAISING AND ACTUAL WHALES - Political candidates seem always to be in search of large donors, often referred to as "whales," to help underwrite their campaigns. Supervisor Linda Parks, who may face no opposition for re-election, is hosting an event on March 2 featuring actual whales.

For $50, Parks is inviting supporters and friends to join her on a whale-watching excursion in the Santa Barbara Channel.

IRWIN'S BANDWAGON - Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin continues to consolidate Democratic support in her 44th Assembly District race. This week she picked up the backing of Oxnard Supervisor John Zaragoza and Oxnard City Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez, both of whom who had been supporting Moorpark's Bernardo Perez before he dropped out of the race, as well as Latino political leaders in the educational arena, Art Hernandez, Ramon Flores and Ana Del Rio-Barba.

Also formally jumping on the bandwagon were Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles and Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins of San Diego, who is slated to become the next speaker.

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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