McClintock Holds Huge Lead Over Mikels for Senate
Conservative Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) was leading moderate Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels by a 3-to-1 margin in partial returns Tuesday, capping a costly and bitter Republican primary to replace retiring Simi Valley state Sen. Cathie Wright.
In three other contested primaries for the state Legislature or U.S. Congress, Ventura lawyer Michael Case moved toward a fall race with Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), Somis teacher Roz McGrath led in her bid for a rematch with Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), and Simi Valley schools trustee Norm Walker was trailing in his effort to replace McClintock in the Assembly.
Despite a surge in fund-raising by Mikels and a flurry of late activity, McClintock held a huge lead after absentee balloting and partial returns. The winner faces Democratic Simi Valley lawyer Daniel Gonzalez in the Nov. 7 general election.
“Obviously this was a strong vote of confidence in the fight I’ve waged for streamlined, downsized and limited government,” McClintock said at a victory celebration in Thousand Oaks. “And I expect that message will resonate just as strongly in the fall as it did in the spring.”
Mikels, who raised about $300,000 to $400,000 for McClintock, conceded the race late Tuesday night and blamed the loss partly on negative campaigning by her opponent.
Case, president of the Ventura County Bar Assn., held a 5-to-1 advantage over political unknown Albert Goldberg, a Ventura real estate broker.
“This is just the beginning of an aggressive campaign that I think will prove that Ventura County wants a new congressman,” Case said. “And from the feedback I’m getting I anticipate that it won’t be long before the Democratic Party is standing shoulder to shoulder with me in this race.”
McGrath, who narrowly lost to Strickland in 1998, took a strong lead after absentee balloting and built on it all evening. A member of a pioneer farm family, McGrath said voters realized she had the financial backing from Assembly Democrats needed to take on Strickland, who has strong support from the religious right and other conservative groups.
“It’s step 1, and I feel really good about it,” said McGrath, in predicting victory. “To take on Tony Strickland is going to be difficult, but it’s doable. And the fact that I came so close to winning last time has helped me earn support both locally and statewide.”
Sharkey had hoped his support of the popular SOAR growth control initiatives would translate into a victory, since McGrath opposed the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources measures.
Walker, who is McClintock’s former chief of staff and stridently anti-abortion, trailed Dr. Keith Richman, a San Fernando Valley physician who spent at least $350,000 of his own money.
Among the four legislative races, the contest between Mikels, 54, and McClintock, 43, for Wright’s state Senate seat was the most expensive and volatile. The 19th Senate District includes most of Ventura County and parts of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.
Mikels blasted McClintock as a right-wing extremist who cares more about ideology than his own district. She called him a hypocrite and a carpetbagger, because she says the self-proclaimed taxpayer advocate lives in a Sacramento suburb, but collects $25,000 a year in taxpayer subsidies for room and board on a one-bedroom Northridge apartment he claims as a legal residence.
McClintock said voters had a choice based on the candidates’ records of public service. The former Republican state treasurer candidate blames Mikels for Ventura County’s recent budget problems and a Medicare billing fiasco that will cost taxpayers at least $23 million.
Interviews outside polling places Tuesday showed some voters agreed with him.
Fred Jay Schwartz, 76, an Oxnard retiree, said he voted for McClintock because of the county’s financial problems.
“Mikels is a disaster,” he said. “She was instrumental in putting the county in a bad position. I voted for McClintock, but I was really voting against Judy.”
Case, 53, a first-time candidate and founding partner of Ventura’s largest law firm, was looking past his race against Goldberg, 41, to a fall battle with Gallegly, a seven-term congressman who has not had a serious challenge since 1992.
Even before knowing Tuesday’s results, he was planning to raise $1 million for the November contest.
Case has been running hard since last June, when he told local Democratic Party leaders it was time to knock off Gallegly and said he had the savvy and stature to do it. As the primary drew to a close, he spent about $50,000 on mailers touting his civic activities and his legal accomplishments.
Gallegly said he is running hard, as always, despite an uncontested primary. He has already raised nearly $1 million.
Voter interviews revealed broad support for the incumbent.
Leaving his polling station in north Oxnard, Councilman Bedford Pinkard, a Democrat, said he is crossing party lines to vote for Gallegly in the fall because he helped Oxnard gain money for roads and to improve the local port.
“I have to vote for what I think is best for the total city,” Pinkard said.
The 37th Assembly District race between McGrath and Sharkey was a polite contest between a well-known farmer and teacher who had run twice unsuccessfully for the same seat, and a little-known councilman from a small city who couldn’t raise enough money to reach voters very often through the mail.
Sharkey, in the race months before McGrath, was heavily backed by local leaders. And he was formally backed by the Democrats’ three-county endorsement committee.
But McGrath was recruited into the race by leading Assembly Democrats after recovering from breast cancer. And in the last month of the campaign, Sacramento lawmakers threw at least $45,000 into her campaign.
In the two-county 38th District, Walker was opposed by Northridge physician Richman and businessman and former Chamber of Commerce President Ross B. Hopkins of Canoga Park.
Walker raised only $52,000 to spread his message until a late push two weeks ago from conservative groups that contributed at least $127,500.
Walker’s recent contributions include $55,000 from the California Independent Business PAC, a group including religious radio station magnate Edward Atsinger III of Camarillo.
Atsinger also loaned McClintock $100,000 last year.