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ELECTIONS : Voters to Pick 2 Supervisors, Decide Tax Levy Plan : Six primary contests for the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress will also be decided at polls in the county.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Ventura County voters, peppered with last-minute appeals, go to the polls today to pick two county supervisors in races dominated by growth issues and--in Oxnard and Santa Paula--to decide whether they should raise their own taxes.

Also on the ballot are six primary contests for the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress, including a bare-knuckle fight between five-term Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) and legislative aide Hunt Braly.

Polls will open at 7 a.m. at 455 locations around the county and close at 8 p.m. Election officials predict that about 40% of the county’s 298,724 registered voters will cast ballots.

The final days of the spring campaigns have been punctuated by a flurry of spending as candidates in most races have appealed to the fears and loyalties of voters through mailers and newspaper advertisements.

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For example, supporters of Measure C have told Oxnard voters in 68,000 flyers--some delivered in person by police officers, firefighters and their families--that law and order is riding on whether they approve a 5% utility tax.

“June 5 could be the day the L.A. gangs and drug dealers have been waiting for,” declares one handout emblazoned with the Oxnard Peace Officers Assn. seal. “Will the gangs win or will we?”

The tax, which would cost the average household about $4 per month, would generate about $5 million annually, making up for a projected $2.8-million budget deficit and avoiding employee layoffs.

Opponents of Measure C argue in their handout that the budgetary red ink was created by governmental mismanagement and the “free spending attitude” of city officials. They say that the ballot measure does not guarantee that the new tax dollars will go to the police and fire departments.

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Voters in two south county supervisorial districts also were inundated over the weekend with the simple images of campaign ads. Long-shot candidates Glen Schmidt in the 4th District and Maria VanderKolk in the 2nd District depicted the front-runners as tools of development interests.

Schmidt, in a double-page ad in Sunday’s Simi Valley newspaper, focused on campaign contributions developers have made to his chief rivals, Simi Valley City Council members Vicky Howard and Bill Davis.

Howard and Davis, dismissing Schmidt as an also-ran, predicted Monday that they will emerge from a five-candidate field to make the November ballot. A runoff between the race’s two top vote-getters could be avoided if one receives more than 50% of the vote today.

VanderKolk, who is challenging one-term Supervisor Madge Schaefer, has emphasized her slow-growth positions, and Schaefer has finally begun to actively campaign against her 25-year-old rival.

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In both a recent letter soliciting contributions and a newspaper ad on Sunday, Schaefer emphasizes her closeness to mainstream Republican politics. She features a photograph of President Bush shaking her hand.

In the letter, Schaefer warns voters in the heavily Republican 4th District to retain “the only Republican on the Board of Supervisors. . . .There is always the danger that those with a different voice, like an all Democrat Board of Supervisors, will steer us off course.”

VanderKolk stresses that she is also a Republican, albeit a “left-wing” one, and has spent $1,000 to put her name on a mailer that endorses a slate of Republican candidates.

Of all the legislative races, the closest appears to be in the 37th Assembly District between Assemblywoman Wright and her challenger Braly, who is the top aide to State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita).

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As their brawl went into its final round last weekend, the 73-year-old Davis entered the fray, accusing Wright, 61, of offending senior citizens by referring to Davis’ age.

Wright sent a letter to 35,000 registered Republicans warning that Braly is trying to exploit the name of the “aging state senator” by making it appear as if Davis had sent them mailings, when the mailings actually came from Braly.

In another mailer, Wright emphasized her qualifications by reprinting a letter of an endorsement signed by Gov. George Deukmejian and Assembly Republican Leader Ross Johnson.

In a Democratic primary to determine who will face Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura) in November, Anita Perez Ferguson of Santa Barbara has reached as many as 60,000 party voters by having her name included on four mailers listing slates of Democratic candidates.

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Ferguson, a former aide to state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), has spent more money than her opponent, Mike McConnell of Ventura, and is considered the favorite in the race.

But McConnell, a construction manager, pulled off one pre-election coup Sunday night by persuading KEYT TV, Channel 3, in Santa Barbara to run interviews with him on newscasts at 6, 9 and 11 p.m.

The television station had interviewed Ferguson March 25. McConnell, however, waited until two weeks ago to demand equal time so that he would appear just before the election.

“For a novice political guy, I’m not too dumb,” McConnell said.

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Over the weekend, about 20,000 Republican voters from Thousand Oaks to Ventura received a flyer from Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), listing endorsements from throughout the party.

McClintock said his widespread support disproves the claims of his challenger, Kevin Staker, who has said the lawmaker’s style has offended party leaders.

The McClintock flyer includes quotes attributed to the daughter of the late anti-tax crusader Paul Gann, who thanks the assemblyman for acting as a pall bearer at the funeral of her father.

“In private, he often referred to you as ‘Patriot McClintock,’ ” Linda Gann Stone is quoted as saying.

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