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ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR : Van Dyke Helps VanderKolk Raise $1,000 at Benefit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maria VanderKolk, a long-shot candidate running against Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer, only raised about $1,000 Sunday at a fund-raiser hosted by actor Dick Van Dyke.

In contrast, Schaefer, who has represented the 2nd District for four years, had $39,000 available for the last stretch of the June 5 election, according to a March 17 filing statement.

Sunday’s event in a rented meeting room in Thousand Oaks was the first fund-raiser VanderKolk has held since she announced her candidacy the last day of the filing period in March. Before the fund-raiser, VanderKolk had raised $5,000, including a $2,000 donation from the owners of Patagonia Inc., a clothing company that was a major supporter of three successful slow-growth candidates last fall, said Eloise Zeanah, VanderKolk’s campaign manager.

“I’ve been told that if more than 50 people turn up that’s a really good showing,” Zeanah said of Sunday’s turnout.

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Last week, VanderKolk, a 25-year-old political novice and manager at a Woodland Hills product licensing firm, said she sent 1,000 $25-a-person invitations to the fund-raiser. But apparently, only 400 invitations reached Ventura County residents because VanderKolk mailed many to homeowners in Agoura Hills, Zeanah said.

Agoura Hills is in Los Angeles County, and residents are ineligible to vote in the election.

“It’s an honest mistake, that’s the kind of person Maria is,” said Zeanah, adding that VanderKolk wanted to establish a broad base of support.

The 2nd District stretches from Thousand Oaks west to Port Hueneme. About 24,000 people voted in the 1986 June primary election for 2nd District supervisor.

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About 80 people showed up Sunday at the fund-raiser hosted by Van Dyke. VanderKolk, who has pledged to block two massive housing projects in the hills of southeast Ventura County, said she met Van Dyke through his son Barry when they both worked with Save Open Space, a group opposed to the development of Ventura County ranches.

VanderKolk said she had not expected the actor to serve as a big drawing card, but hoped that Van Dyke’s presence would lend a “special charm” to the evening.

Van Dyke, clad in a gray business suit, said that although he has known VanderKolk for only a couple of months, he supports her slow-growth position.

“This is kind of an 11th-hour attempt to save the Malibu Canyon and Santa Monica Mountains area,” Van Dyke said. “Things are deteriorating at an alarming rate.”

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Schaefer also has celebrities in her corner. Actors Tom Selleck and Robert Wagner are scheduled to appear at a $125-a-plate fund-raiser for the supervisor.

VanderKolk said the folksy atmosphere of the affair was symbolic of the grass-roots nature of her campaign. Campaign volunteers had decorated the center with balloons, signs and splashy tablecloths patterned with green leaves and parrots. Hawaiian tiki lamps lined the path leading to the building.

“We each spent about $20 to $30 at the grocery store and each person made his best hors d’oeuvres,” VanderKolk said.

The centerpiece of the evening was one of VanderKolk’s campaign posters, hand-painted in oil by Lake Sherwood artist Ardys Davenport. The colorful artwork depicts a panoramic scene, presumably in Ventura County, of a pristine meadow, shimmering mountains and an oak tree against the backdrop of a bright blue, smogless sky. Posters in the Port Hueneme area will show an ocean view, campaign workers said.

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“I think they say, ‘open space,’ ” said Davenport, who is donating her services in designing and painting the posters. She said she plans to paint at least a dozen more, and VanderKolk’s campaign workers said they hope to have them up at locations around the county before the June 5 election.

VanderKolk’s supporters voiced a bright optimism, despite the fact that she is facing an opponent with more name recognition and more campaign funds.

“We know it’s going to be a fight,” said Thousand Oaks resident Irene Pernice. “But Maria has that freshness we need.”

Her husband, Frank Pernice, described himself as a conservationist and a Schaefer opponent.

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“I might even make up an ‘I hate Madge’ badge,” Pernice said.

The amount of money raised is “plenty to do what we want to do,” said VanderKolk, adding that much of it would be spent on flyers, which will be handed out door-to-door in the weekends leading up to the election.

VanderKolk acknowledged that her age and her inexperience may work against her in her effort to unseat Schaefer, a former Thousand Oaks councilwoman who was elected supervisor in 1986. But she said she hopes to appeal to voters who are seeking someone with energy and new ideas.

“This is the time to get in and fight,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of time left before Ventura County becomes another San Fernando Valley.”

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