SPECIAL REPORT / ELECTION PREVIEW : DECISION '94 / A Voter's Guide to State and Local Elections : Array of Issues, Races Across County Await Ballot Verdicts

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new landfill. Development of a commercial airport at Point Mugu. The conversion of the county's firefighters into a paramedic force.

These are some of the issues at stake in the June 7 election when voters determine the winners of two open seats on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. Voters will also select a Superior Court judge who will make hundreds of rulings before facing reelection at the turn of the century.

In Port Hueneme, those casting ballots will determine if it's worth more taxes to keep their Police Department, while a small pocket of voters in Oak Park will advise whether their community should become the county's 11th city.

Although less than half of the county's registered voters are expected to make it to the polls, local officials say the results of next week's election could alter public policy for years to come.

"This is absolutely a very critical election," said Supervisor Maria VanderKolk, who along with Supervisor Vicky Howard is stepping down at the end of the year.

"There are always very important decisions facing the board," VanderKolk said. "But they may be more significant in this election because we're (getting close) to making decisions that will significantly affect the future of the county."

Supervisor John K. Flynn agreed, saying the two new supervisors may determine whether a commercial airport is developed at Point Mugu and settle a longstanding dispute over a proposed landfill in Weldon Canyon, between Ventura and Ojai.

"I think the supervisor races are going to be the most important in the last 25 years," Flynn said.

County voters also will pick candidates for county auditor-controller, tax assessor, clerk and recorder and superintendent of schools.

Three top county department heads--including the sheriff, district attorney and tax collector--will be automatically returned to office because they face no challengers. Two Superior Court judges and two Municipal Court judges also have no competition.

In the most visible of six primary races for the state legislature and Congress, Republican voters in Thousand Oaks will decide who challenges Rep. Anthony Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) in November.

Richard Sybert, a former top aide to Gov. Pete Wilson, moved to Calabasas less than a year ago to run for Beilenson's seat and quickly made a name for himself by loaning his campaign $430,000. As a result, he has also become the main target of attacks by his four opponents.

Here is a closer look at the local, state and federal races that Ventura County voters will face on June 7.

County Supervisors

Of the two contests, the race for VanderKolk's 2nd District seat, which covers Thousand Oaks, Oak Park and Port Hueneme, is the most crowded with five candidates.

All of the candidates agree on the need for more jobs, less crime and improved county services. But each has tried to distinguish their candidacies by taking stands on specific issues.

Attorney Trudi Loh portrays herself as an avid environmentalist and the only supervisorial candidate who opposes development of a new county landfill. She said she prefers to explore other alternatives for trash disposal, such as shipping it elsewhere.

"We can't just keep blindly dumping trash into landfills," Loh said.

Taxpayer advocate H. Jere Robings wants to hold the line on taxes and zero in on wasteful government spending. Former County Supervisor Madge Schaefer proposes expansion of the county's anti-gang prevention programs to help curb violent crime.

For his part, Thousand Oaks City Councilman Frank Schillo wants to lure new businesses to the county and is a strong advocate of a commercial airport at Point Mugu. Rancher Carter Ward, on the other hand, has proposed allowing more development in the county's unincorporated areas to help generate revenues to pay for county services.

The supervisorial race in the 4th District, which covers Moorpark and Simi Valley, involves four candidates. They are Moorpark City Councilman Scott Montgomery and Simi Valley City Council members Judy Mikels and Barbara Williamson. Off-again, on-again candidate James L. Meredith, a member of Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District Board, re-entered the race last week on a platform to promote tourism.

Montgomery and Williamson throughout the race have stressed their experience serving on a number of city and county agencies, dealing with everything from waste management to regional government.

Yet Williamson, who has considerably less government experience, says she can provide better leadership than her competitors. A vice president of Simi Valley Bank, Williamson has raised more in campaign contributions than all her opponents and has spiced her campaign with tough talk about slashing government spending.

A November runoff in both supervisorial races is possible if the top vote-getter in each race fails to garner more than 50% of the vote.

Other County Offices

Ventura City Councilman Jack Tingstrom is challenging acting county Tax Assessor Glenn E. Gray for his job. The assessor evaluates all taxable property in the county, oversees more than 100 employees and manages a $7-million budget.

Gray has worked in the assessor's office for 31 years, including seven years as assistant assessor. He was appointed in June, 1993, to fill the unexpired term of R. J. Sanford, who died in office. His campaign focuses mostly on his experience and knowledge of the job's technical aspects.

But Tingstrom said the county needs new leadership and that the assessor, as a department manager, needs to have an overall vision rather than mastery of all the technical skills of department employees.

"If people believe that you need to have been in the job for 31 years to know how to do it, then they're going to vote for him," said Tingstrom, who retired in 1985 after 30 years as a mid-level manager at GTE Corp. "If they believe that county government needs new direction in management and in attitude then they're going to vote for me."

In what one candidate has characterized as a grudge match, Dan Schmidt, owner of a legal advertising business, is running against longtime incumbent County Clerk Richard Dean. The county clerk is responsible for supervising dozens of employees who perform clerical work for county offices and keep track of birth certificates, land deeds and other records.

As county clerk, Dean is responsible for initiating a legal complaint three years ago against Schmidt alleging deceptive advertising practices associated with his business.

As a result of that case, a judge recently ordered Schmidt to pay a $2,500 fine. Schmidt maintains he notified officials in the county clerk's office before mailing thousands of flyers soliciting business. He said he had heard no objections from the clerk's office and assumed there was no problem.

Dean, who has served as county clerk since 1983, has accused Schmidt of running for county clerk "as a matter of retaliation."

But Schmidt said he entered the race because he believes he can run the clerk's office more efficiently. He recently filed a lawsuit to obtain a copy of the clerk's 1994-95 budget to bolster his charges.

"If I didn't think I could do a better job, I wouldn't be running," said Schmidt, whose campaign is largely financed by an $8,400 personal loan.

Meanwhile, the county auditor-controller's race dropped from six to five candidates last month after Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton was disqualified in a legal dispute filed over his accounting experience.

Other auditor-controller candidates include accountants William Baker, who brought suit against Stratton, Richard Morrisset of Ventura, Clifford Wigen of Simi Valley, Scott Weiss of Ventura and Thomas Mahon, who was appointed controller by the Board of Supervisors last year after serving 20 years as assistant controller.

The county auditor is responsible for conducting department audits as well as preparing the county's payroll and budget.

Most of the auditor-controller candidates have been critical of Mahon for being part of the county's bureaucracy for more than two decades. But Mahon maintains that his first-hand knowledge of the job sets him apart from the other candidates.

For the first time in 50 years, the job of Ventura County superintendent of schools is being contested. The candidates are Charles Weis, who was appointed to the job last year, and Dan Flynn, principal of the county's school for juvenile offenders.

The county superintendent's office, an arm of the state Department of Education, provides administrative support to the county's 20 school districts and runs 13 schools for special education students and troubled youths.

Flynn wants to increase efficiency in the superintendent's office and has proposed to slash its $28.5-million budget by 25%. But Weis has argued that such a cut would ultimately cost local districts more money than it would save.

An open seat on the Superior Court bench is also at stake in a highly charged race between Assistant Dist. Atty. Colleen Toy White and criminal defense attorney James Farley.

White has served in the district attorney's office for 11 years as a top administrator, with little time spent in the courtroom. In contrast, Farley has been in court as a defense lawyer for 27 years.

Ballot Measures

Ventura County transportation officials are urging voters to approve Measure X, which would enable the county to tap into a state gas tax fund that would return $1 million a year for local transit projects. Officials said Measure X would not require new taxes. Instead, it guarantees that a portion of the gas tax money collected at pumps in Ventura County can be used for projects in the county instead of elsewhere.

"It's a no-brainer," Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, said of Measure X.

Voters in Oak Park will advise county supervisors whether the community of 10,000 should become a city, annex to Thousand Oaks or remain a county jurisdiction. Measure A is non-binding and the supervisors will make the final decision.

In Port Hueneme, voters will decide the fate of a special tax to generate $500,000 needed to keep the city's Police Department. If approved, homeowners would pay an additional $56 annually while renters would pay $47.

Measure Z requires a two-thirds majority vote for approval. If the measure fails, city officials said they would consider turning over the Police Department to the county sheriff, who would then have his deputies patrol the city.

Voters in Santa Paula will decide the fate of Measure Y, which calls for the expenditure of already approved property taxes to benefit the city's library. Operating hours would increase from 18 hours a week to 30.

State Senate District 18

Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) is unopposed in the Democratic primary for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara). Hart's 18th District includes Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

O'Connell, who has already amassed more than $316,000 in campaign contributions, will face the winner of the Republican primary in the November general election.

Competing for the GOP nomination is Republican Steve MacElvaine, a former San Luis Obispo supervisor, and Steve Decker, who operates a family owned Dodge dealership in New Jersey from his Santa Barbara home. Both are fiscal conservatives. But unlike Decker, MacElvaine is supportive of abortion rights and gun control.

Assembly District 35

Santa Barbara winery owner Brooks Firestone is unopposed in the Republican primary in the 35th Assembly District, which covers Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and most of Santa Barbara County.

On the Democratic side, Bob Ream, a former aide to state Sen. Hart, is competing for the party's nomination against Mindy Lorenz, a former Green Party candidate who ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago.

Ream said his experience in Hart's office, where he helped initiate legislation, best qualifies him for the job. Lorenz, on the other hand, stresses her personal life experience as a single mother living on food stamps and earning a doctoral degree and job as an art history instructor at Cal State Northridge.

Assembly Districts 37-38

Assemblyman Nao Takasugi (R-Oxnard) is unopposed in the Republican primary in the 37th District, which covers most of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Port Hueneme and Oxnard. Takasugi faces his old nemesis, Oxnard City Council member Dorothy Maron in November. Maron has no opponent in the Democratic primary.

In the 38th Assembly District, which includes Simi Valley and Fillmore, Assemblywoman Paula Boland is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Competing for the Democratic nomination in the June primary are Chatsworth's Josh Arce, who may be the youngest legislative candidate in the state at age 18, and Simi Valley attorney David Allan Cocquyt. Both are political novices.

Congressional District 23

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), seeking a fifth term, is unopposed in the Republican primary in the 23rd Congressional District, which covers all of Ventura County except for most of Thousand Oaks.

On the Democratic side, Kevin Ready, a Santa Barbara County deputy counsel, is running against Frank Stephenson, a college placement consultant from Ojai. Both are running as strong supporters of President Clinton's economic and health care programs.

Congressional District 24

In the 24th Congressional District, which includes Thousand Oaks, Rep. Anthony Beilenson (R-Woodland Hills) has a Democratic challenger: Scott Gaulke, a Sherman Oaks businessman, is running as a follower of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

Voters casting ballots in the June Republican primary can chose among five candidates: Mark Boos Benhard, a one-time aide to former Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton); Robert Hammer, a Newbury Park banking consultant; Sang Korman, a Newbury Park businessman; Emery Shane, a commercial real estate broker, and Richard Sybert, who spent three years as director of the governor's Office of Planning and Research.

All of the candidates support legislation to curb illegal immigration, cut taxes, reduce crime and slash government spending. Most of the opponents have focused their attacks on Sybert's recent move into the district and his large personal loan to his campaign.

Sybert, an attorney, calls these "bogus issues" because, he says, they have no relevance as to who is best qualified to represent the district.

About This Section

On June 7 California's voters will choose candidates for governor, for the U.S. Senate and for seven other statewide offices. They will decide on a variety of ballot propositions, including whether to borrow money to finance earthquake recovery. Today, The Times offers this special guide to the primary elections, with reports on the candidates and issues in all statewide and countywide contests. Congressional and state legislative races are being covered in suburban editions.

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