Ventura County

California’s 2022 primary election is on Tuesday, June 7.

Federal office

JULIA BROWNLEY for California’s 26th Congressional District

Representative Julia Brownley is the only Democrat in the race. The incumbent faces four competitors: three Republicans and one independent, Dave Goodman, who isn’t a serious challenger. Representative Brownley is a pretty standard Democrat; I’ve wished she would do more, like cosponsoring the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or at least holding back from supporting the regressive SALT deduction so strongly, but she’s a reliable advocate of liberal issues in DC.

California office

STEVE BENNETT for California’s 38th Assembly District

Assemblymember Steve Bennett is the only Democrat in the race. The incumbent faces Republican Cole Brocato and Daniel Wilson, who isn’t running with a party affiliation, but whose stances align with the Democratic Socialists of America. Both Bennett and Wilson strongly urged Congress to enact a national carbon fee-and-dividend policy in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby questionnaire (Brocato didn’t respond). Assemblymember Bennett is an inconsistent supporter of housing—he abstained from SB9 and SB10 last year, but voted yes for AB1401–and in the candidate forum he minimized the need for more market-rate housing, but the others weren’t any better. Bennett is more knowledgeable and experienced, and less socialist, than Wilson. Re-elect him.

Ventura County office

TBD for County Superintendent of Schools

Cesar Morales, the appointed incumbent, is the only candidate. I will decide whether to cast the superfluous vote after reviewing his record.

KEITH TAYLOR for Assessor

Chief Deputy Assessor of Ventura County Keith Taylor is running against…appraiser (?) Bradley Coburn. Their campaign websites show that Taylor is the serious, experienced, endorsed candidate, while Coburn just wants to cut property taxes. (As a non-policymaking role, I would favor making this an appointed rather than elected position.)

TBD for Auditor-Controller

Incumbent Jeffery Burgh is the only candidate. I will decide whether to cast the superfluous vote after reviewing his record.

MICHELLE ASCENCION for County Clerk and Recorder

Michelle Ascension is the current Assistant County Clerk-Recorder and former City Clerk for Oxnard, and has the endorsement of the current Clerk-Recorder and most elected officials in the county. The candidate forum revealed that Ascension is the only candidate with relevant experience and knowledge to execute the duties of the office. Jeff Hargleroad is a former show biz exec, and Bruce Boyer didn’t join the forum.

As Ascencion stated in the forum, this is not a policymaking role, which means two things in my view:

  1. It shouldn’t be an elected office

  2. If it is an elected office, voters should elect the most qualified candidate, as an elected body would ideally do when they appoint someone

Do what we should ask the Board of Supervisors or County CEO to do: put the person with the background to execute policy, Michelle Ascencion.

ERIK NASARENKO for District Attorney

The Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed Erik Nasarenko as District Attorney, after experience on the Ventura City Council. His website indicates more thoughtfulness and compassion than that of his opponent, John Barrick. Vote for a progressive DA, Erik Nasarenko.

BILL AYUB for Sheriff

Bill Ayub is the incumbent, and his second-in-command, Jim Fryhoff, is running against him. I watched their debate and read their websites, which suggested the main policy difference has to do with a pension reform Ayub was pushing, against the wishes of the deputy sheriff’s union. The union apparently then recruited and endorsed Fryhoff, along with a bunch of other law enforcement unions. Don’t let cop unions bully the public into paying for broken pension contracts. Vote for Ayub.

SUE HORGAN for Treasurer-Tax Collector

Sue Horgan has been Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector since 2017. She is running against Ron Speakman, a CPA with no campaign website or online information. This should be an appointed position.

NO on Measure A

When Ventura County started permitting oil wells in 1948, the oil company would go through an upfront process and then be able to drill more in that well by paying a fee. In 1977, the county added discretionary reviews for new permits via the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Measures A and B apply the new discretionary review system to wells permitted before 1977, for coastal and non-coastal zones, respectively. For more historical background, I recommend this VC Star article and this Los Padres Forest Watch article.

The supporting campaign, VC-SAFE, claims that Measures A and B would protect our water supply (it stands for Ventura County Save Agriculture and Freshwater For Everybody). However, state and federal regulators already subject oil wells to objective tests to ensure safety. A U.S. Geological Survey study failed to identify petroleum-related gases in Ventura County irrigation wells, and the State Water Board insists that existing programs protect groundwater near oil and gas production sites.

Opponents, meanwhile, cite the economic damage of the measures: “Higher energy prices”, “Loss of thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenue”, and “More imports of costly foreign oil”. Economic theory predicts each of these directionally, as the discretionary reviews would add tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of new permits (or make them untenable), though the scale of the job loss seems implausible. The campaign spokesman has said that the oil and gas companies employ about 800 people directly, and that another 1,300 work in related sectors. VC-SAFE is wrong to claim that there would be “No Change in Jobs”, “No Change at Pump”, and “No Change in Public Services”, but opponents are also wrong to claim thousands of jobs (they haven’t provided a source for the revenue loss).

If you’ve been exposed to the housing approval process, Measures A and B may sound familiar. Discretionary environmental reviews often obstruct the development of dense housing and non-vehicle infrastructure like bike lanes, even if they would benefit the environment. And indeed, the leader of the VC-SAFE campaign, Merrill Berge, is one of Ventura County’s most prominent anti-density advocates. Berge came on the local politics scene by spending seven years fighting a 2,500-home development in Camarillo, including creating the NIMBY organization Camarillo Sustainable Growth. She is also on the board of Save Open Space & Agricultural Resources (SOAR), an organization promoting the successful 2016 ballot measure to prevent farmers from building homes on their property. Her role in VC-SAFE appears to connect to her board chair position at Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG). It brings me no joy to side with fossil fuel companies, but VC-SAFE leadership has arguably done even more damage to the environment by preventing people from living in low-carbon dense homes in coastal California.

The direct impacts of Measures A and B include lower domestic oil production–which will be partly offset by imports–leading to lower emissions and pollution globally, at the expense of local economic activity, including jobs and tax revenue. In 2021, I might have felt differently, but I currently believe that current geopolitics justify trading off some environmental benefits to weaken Russia by reducing imports, and that includes increasing (or at least not decreasing) domestic oil production. But I hold that view only weakly, and I could be persuaded that we shouldn’t adjust long-term policy for short-term circumstances.

A view I hold more strongly is the importance of rule of law. Measures A and B increase dependence on discretionary processes, which are great for consultants and corrupt politicians, but threaten the rest of our democratic system. Environmentalists should identify opportunities to make the world a safer place with better rules, rather than giving more power to officials to arbitrarily approve or deny their constituents’ activities.

Vote for rule of law; vote no on A and B.

NO on Measure B

See above.