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Scores of Candidates Gear Up for Campaigns : Elections: Political veterans, newcomers register for county’s Nov. 8 ballot, which includes a record 145 offices.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County’s fall political season kicked into high gear Friday as dozens of candidates registered to compete for a host of city council and mayoral positions, with the most crowded races emerging in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

By 5 p.m. Friday, the deadline for filing in several city races, more than 50 candidates had been certified to run for 26 council seats in nine local cities. Only Ventura, which has elections in odd-numbered years, has no council seats on the ballot.

In all, the county’s Nov. 8 ballot will include a record 145 elective offices, including positions on 17 school boards and 18 special district boards. Voters will also cast ballots for two seats on the county Board of Supervisors and for county auditor.

They will pick three state legislators, two congressmen and a U.S. senator. Nine other statewide posts are on the ballot, including the governorship.

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“It’s the most (races) we’ve ever had,” said Bruce Bradley, the county’s elections chief. “It’s going to be very crowded.”

Although the county experienced a record low 33.6% voter turnout in the June gubernatorial primary, officials say they expect a much higher turnout in November.

“Traditionally, we have seen a jump of about 20% to 25%,” Bradley said. “In the last two governor’s elections, we had about a 60% turnout.”

With so many city council seats available this fall, including a number of open seats, Bradley said “there’s going to be quite a lot of change.”

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The county’s two biggest cities have drawn the largest number of candidates.

In Thousand Oaks, 10 candidates filed for three council seats, setting the stage for what could be the liveliest campaign in the east county. Incumbents Judy Lazar and Elois Zeanah will seek reelection, but Councilman Alex Fiore will retire after 30 years of service.

Key issues are expected to be growth and increasing crime.

Candidate Gregory Cole, a trustee of the county’s community college district, said he decided to run for the Thousand Oaks council because he wants to improve police protection by possibly establishing a substation in the city center.

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“Public safety is a big issue,” he said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people that they don’t feel as secure in their businesses or homes as they once had.”

In Simi Valley, five candidates have filed for two council seats, while Mayor Greg Stratton will run unopposed for a fifth term. In Moorpark, three candidates filed for two seats, including incumbents John Wozniak and Bernardo Perez. Mayor Paul Lawrason is unopposed.

“I like to think that the reason there are so few entries this year is that people are generally satisfied with our performance,” Lawrason said. “Maybe that’s a dangerous thing to say. It might come back to haunt me.”

In Oxnard, eight candidates filed for two council seats and television producer Antonio De La Cerda will challenge one-term Mayor Manuel Lopez.

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De La Cerda, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1992, said he has decided to try again because he wants to ease restrictions on small businesses and take a more aggressive stand against crime.

“I want to be active, not reactive,” he said. “I think I can bring a lot of energy to this race.”

In Port Hueneme, three political newcomers have filed applications to run for three open seats, including that of Councilman Dorill B. Wright, who is stepping down after nearly three decades. Two other longtime council members--Ken Hess and James Daniels--also decided to retire.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the end of an era, but it’s certainly a changing of the guard,” Wright said.

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Mechanical engineer Frank McElfish said he is running for the council because he is concerned about maintaining city services in the face of declining revenues.

After Port Hueneme voters rejected in June a property tax needed to maintain the city’s Police Department, the City Council approved a utility tax to pay the $500,000 tab, a decision that upset some residents.

“We are at a critical point in the life of the city,” McElfish said. “If we don’t come up with some creative ways to revitalize the city, then we will have some serious problems.”

Camarillo City Council members Charlotte Craven, Stanley J. Daily and Charles Ken Gose will not have to worry about campaigning this year. All three are unchallenged.

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In Ojai, seven council candidates have filed for three seats. Incumbents Steve Olsen, Joe De Vito and Nina Shelley are all seeking reelection.

In Fillmore, three candidates will compete for two seats, including council members Linda Brewster and Don Gunderson.

Real estate broker Evaristo H. Barajas, a 31-year resident of the city, said he decided to challenge the incumbents so he can attract more business to the town.

“Our employment here is not that great,” Barajas said. “A lot of people here work in Oxnard, Ventura or Los Angeles, and they spend their money out of town. We need that money here.”

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And in Santa Paula, six candidates have filed papers for three council seats, including one seat being vacated by retiring Margaret Ely.

The deadline for filing candidacy papers in Ojai, Camarillo and Fillmore was 5 p.m. Friday.

In Moorpark, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, the deadline has been extended until Wednesday because some incumbents chose not to seek reelection.


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