Friday, March 10, 2006

Challenges to Strickland & Gallegly (This Elton is probably the least known CA MOC on either side of the aisle!)

In an otherwise yawner of a news day - a controversy that is sure to cause parochial waves.

Ventura County Star
Republicans may oppose Gallegly, Strickland
By Timm Herdt, March 10, 2006

With the deadline today to file for political office this year, a flurry of intriguing developments is unfolding in east Ventura County Republican politics.

Before the 5 p.m. deadline passes, two GOP incumbents could face opposition from within their party, and the nonpartisan race for county supervisor in Moorpark and Simi Valley could widen a rift among local Republicans.

Here is what's happening:

In the 23rd Congressional District, 10-term incumbent Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley faces a potential primary challenge from Westlake Village attorney Michael Tenenbaum.

In the 37th Assembly District, longtime Republican activist Bob Larkin of Simi Valley has taken out nomination papers to challenge incumbent GOP Assemblywoman Audra Strickland of Moorpark.

In the 4th Supervisorial District, two challengers have come forward to take on three-term incumbent Judy Mikels of Simi Valley. Although the office is nonpartisan, that race has created partisan ripples because Strickland and her husband, former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, had originally endorsed a Democrat against Mikels, who is a Republican.

The Stricklands, however, have now rescinded their endorsement of Democrat Jim Dantona and have instead decided to back Simi Valley businessman Peter Foy, a conservative Republican and the newest entrant into the race.
Foy, a board member of the Ventura County Boy Scout Council, is a friend and ally of Sheriff Bob Brooks, who also serves on the Boy Scout board.

The Stricklands' involvement in the supervisor campaign has raised hackles among some Simi Valley Republicans, including Larkin.

At the state Republican convention in San Jose last month, Larkin distributed fliers to delegates' hotel rooms, advising delegates that the Stricklands had endorsed "an ultra-liberal Democrat" against Mikels, a fellow Republican.

"This raises some serious doubts in my mind about Mr. and Mrs. Strickland's loyalty to the California Republican Party," the flier said.

The allegation was potentially troubling to Tony Strickland because he is campaigning statewide for the party nomination for controller. That race promises to be perhaps the most contested GOP primary in California this year, as Strickland is matched against state Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria.

Partly because of concern over the endorsement, Larkin took out nomination papers last week to challenge Audra Strickland in the GOP primary for her Assembly seat. Since then, Larkin said, he has been approached by high-ranking Republicans from around the state asking him to drop his plans.

About the same time, the Stricklands dropped their endorsement of Dantona and are now backing Foy instead.

Tony Strickland said he would have endorsed Foy from the outset had he known he intended to run.

"Early on, we supported Dantona because we care deeply about our district," he said. "I don't think the incumbent is doing a good job representing the district."

Mikels characterized the Stricklands' actions as sour grapes — retribution against her because two years ago she endorsed Deputy District Attorney Jeff Gorell in the Republican primary over Audra Strickland.

"I think it's disturbing that these people can be vengeful and get away with it," Mikels said. "Tony and Audra have overstepped their bounds. Why would you do that when you yourself are running in a partisan race?"

Dantona, whose consulting firm has worked with a number of Democratic politicians, said he understands the decision of the Stricklands to pull their endorsements.

"Having been in the business for as many years as I have, there are no hard feelings at all," he said. "I like Tony and Audra Strickland. They're both stand-up people. Tony did a lot of nice things for me."

Other Republicans, including Simi Valley Councilwoman Barbra Williamson, continue to support Dantona. She said it's unfortunate that others seek to inject partisanship into a nonpartisan race.

"I expected it," she said. "If you're a dye-in-the-wool Republican, you're not going to get past that. I think it's great that Dantona is able to cross party lines."

The emergence of a challenger to Gallegly caught county Republicans by surprise.

County GOP Central Committee Chairwoman Leslie Cornejo said she was "floored" when she heard the news. She said Tenenbaum became active in local GOP politics last fall, and she was so impressed she appointed him to the state Republican Central Committee.

"I saw him as a young man with a future," Cornejo said.

Tenenbaum, 37, has taken out nomination papers and has until today to return them.

He was reared in Thousand Oaks and was valedictorian of the Thousand Oaks High Class of '87. He returned to the county after graduating from Harvard Law School and now practices law and runs a business-consulting firm.

Tenenbaum said he is confident he will have ample resources to mount a serious campaign but will not entirely self-fund a challenge. "I'm not a rich-guy candidate looking for something to do," he said.