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Case Backers Say Upset of Gallegly Is a Possibility

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With $400,000 in the bank and increasing attention from Democratic Party leaders, supporters of Oak View attorney Michael Case believe they have a real chance of upsetting 14-year-incumbent Rep. Elton Gallegly this fall.

“The last three candidates against Elton Gallegly were good people but none spent more than the low $30,000s,” said Jonathan Brown, Case’s campaign manager. “Gallegly outspent them 10 to 1.”

Already, however, Case’s campaign is getting attention from the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which gave $5,000 in February--a rare occurrence so early in a campaign--and may funnel more, a committee spokesman said.

The last serious challenge to Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) came in 1992 when Anita Perez-Ferguson spent $700,000 in a failed bid to unseat him.

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Case’s campaign is also taking some encouragement from its recent poll.

Aides said it shows Gallegly as vulnerable, despite showing Case as a blip.

The results may help Case raise more money, they said.

The survey of 400 registered voters in the 23rd District asked how they felt about Gallegly’s stance on issues such as gun control, abortion, education and immigration.

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It also asked whom they would support in an election.

The poll, Brown said, showed 37% of those surveyed supported Gallegly, while 15% chose Case.

Brown refused to release the poll or the questions asked, saying doing so would compromise their campaign strategy.

Though the numbers seem to show Gallegly comfortably ahead, Democrats see it differently.

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“Whenever a candidate is under 50%, people take notice,” said John Del Cecato, spokesman for the committee.

A Democrat able to get a message out has a chance against Gallegly, he said.

John Davies, a Republican political consultant in Santa Barbara, said a decade ago incumbents might have needed 50% of the vote at this stage of a campaign but not now.

“Ten years ago everyone loved their congressman, but not anymore,” he said. “People are tougher-- a 44 or 45% is more what you are looking for. But if it’s at 37%, that’s a real problem.”

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But the real aim of the poll is to raise money, Davies said.

Gallegly dismissed the poll, saying constituents surveyed had called and told him the questions were slanted and misrepresented his positions.

“He’s been campaigning for almost a year and he only has 15% of the vote?” Gallegly asked. “That speaks for itself.”

Democrats are nonetheless encouraged by the district’s changing demographics and voter registration figures.

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Once solidly Republican, Ventura County is changing.

Now 40% of registered voters are Democrats, while 41% are Republicans.

Maybe so, Gallegly said, but he considers his primary showing as a sign he is in step with his constituency.

In the March 7 primary, Gallegly, 56, faced Case, 53, and received 64% of the vote to Case’s 24%, hardly the showing that has the incumbent reaching for the antacid.

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Still, Gallegly is taking nothing for granted in the next election.

He has a little more than $1 million in his war chest.

He also rejected the Case poll’s results.

“I’m at 37% for those people who will answer a survey in the middle of the night for people they don’t even know,” Gallegly said.

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The county’s other House member, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is also raising as much money as he can.

He has raised $260,000 this year.

His Republican opponent, Jerry Doyle, could not be reached Thursday.


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