2012-04-06 / Front Page
Assemblyman back from Afghanistan
Camarillo resident Jeff Gorell completes one-year tour
“It’s great to be home,” Gorell told the Acorn. “It feels surreal. I spent a lot of time away from the family and it hasn’t quite settled in yet.”
Gorell, 41, was elected to a two-year term in the state Assembly in November 2010 representing the 37th District. A Navy reservist, he was told just a few days before the election that he would be deployed to Afghanistan for a second time; he was previously there in 2002.
Lt. Cmdr. Gorell left in March last year for Camp Leatherneck in the war-torn country’s Helmand province, said Ernie Villegas, Gorell’s district director. While there, he served as a military intelligence officer in support of U.S. Marines fighting insurgents.
Gorell returned to California March 26 and will go to Sacramento on April 9, when the Assembly reconvenes after a week-long recess.
A welcome-home gathering was held for Gorell Wednesday night at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where he is a professor of government and public policy.
“It’s great to see everybody,” Gorell said. “I’ve been focusing mainly with spending time with my family, but I also met with my staff.”
The veteran has little time to waste with the June primary just two months away. The Republican, who has already raised about $88,000 for his campaign, is facing two challengers in the race for the new 44th District: Democrats Thomas Mullens of Thousand Oaks and Eileen MacEnery of Newbury Park.
Last summer, while Gorell was away on deployment, the Citizens Redistricting Commission redrew political district boundaries. The 14-member independent board redraws the maps every 10 years in response to new demographic and population data collected in the U.S. census.
The new district Gorell hopes to represent, the 44th, includes the Ventura County cities of Camarillo, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and a small part of Simi Valley, as well as Westlake Village in Los Angeles County.
Republicans had a slight advantage in voter numbers in the old 37th District, but the new lines now give a slight edge to Democrats.
While he faces the challenges of a fresh campaign and new boundaries, Gorell will mainly focus in the coming weeks on supporting bills that his staff pushed while he was away, Villegas said.
Gorell said a total of 14 measures were introduced in his name while he was away.
Five of the bills address helping military veterans.
“He’ll roll up his sleeves and start working with the other legislators toward viable solutions toward the economic situation we have in California,” Villegas said. “We really need to work together to make those changes.”
Gorell said his other priority as an assemblyman is to turn around the county’s slumped economy.
“I plan on building support through business and labor to stimulate the economy,” Gorell said. “I want to bring down the abnormally high unemployment rate we have in Ventura County so businesses can start hiring more people.”
Gorell lives in Camarillo with his wife Laura, their 7-year-old daughter, Ashley, and 2-year-old son, Jack.