2012-05-11 / Front Page

Two challenge Gorell for Assembly seat

By Anna Bitong

Gorell Gorell Assemblymember Jeff Gorell (R-Westlake Village) will face two challengers in the race for the new 44th District.

The Navy reservist returned to California on March 26 after a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where he served as a military intelligence officer supporting U.S. Marines. He was called to serve in 2009 just days before being elected to a two-year Assembly term representing the old 37th district.

While he was away, the Citizens Redistricting Commission redrew district boundaries to include Camarillo, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and a small part of Simi Valley, as well as Westlake Village in Los Angeles County. 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 change may benefit Gorell’s Democratic opponents, Eileen MacEnery of Newbury Park and Thomas Mullens of Thousand Oaks. Republicans previously had a small advantage in voter numbers; now, it’s Democrats who hold the advantage.

MacEnery MacEnery “It seems as if for almost three decades the Democrats have conceded (the 37th District) seat to the Republicans, as if they owned it,” MacEnery said. “I haven’t seen the Democratic Party put up a fi ght.”

The self-employed businesswoman said Gorell should have been replaced during his 12-month deployment.

“I’m tired of people of (this district) and East Ventura County not being represented by either party,” MacEnery said. “Jeff Gorell is a decent, honorable, ethical person. He was called to Afghanistan and had a lot more things on his mind. The (issue) is not why he vacated office, it’s that he did vacate office.

Mullens Mullens “Proper procedure wasn’t followed,” MacEnery continued. “(The 37th district) was left without representation. To me, this is a violation of the oath of office.”

Gorell hopes that his absence will not affect the decisions of voters.

“I think that my record will stand with voters,” said Gorell, who previously served in Afghanistan in 2002 and is not eligible for deployment for another five years.

Referring to the possibility of a second term, he said, “I will be around and dedicated to being a good legislator. Someone once said that good policymaking is good politics. I’m a good policy person. I hope (voters) will appreciate that and extend to me the opportunity and honor to serve them again.”

Policy maker

Gorell, recently appointed as outreach chair on the Assembly Republican Leadership Team, said he will continue to work across party lines to introduce and support bipartisan legislation.

Fourteen bills were introduced in Gorell’s name while he was away, and six of those bills were co-authored by Democrats.

The Camarillo resident said he would continue his support of military veterans and job seekers. The unemployment rate among veterans in California is “extremely high,” Gorell said, and the rate in Ventura County is higher than the statewide average.

“Six bills this year will create a one-stop shop for veterans looking for employment. Those bills have bipartisan support. I’m working on keeping those going,” he said. “We want to thank those men and women who have served and get them back working.”

If reelected, the assemblyman hopes to attract more business to the area and protect local employers, including the Naval Base Ventura County, with facilities in Point Mugu, Port Hueneme and San Nicolas Island. When the base was considered for closure in 2004, Gorell joined a committee that lobbied successfully to keep it open.

“(The base) is so important for the local economy and local jobs,” Gorell said.

Working with the office of Gov. Jerry Brown, Gorell is also trying to reform the public employee pension system by “eliminating some of the practices which are costing taxpayers a significant amount of money,” he said.

Closing tax offices in the state capital would also save taxpayer dollars, he said.

“Three tax agencies in Sacramento were needed back when collecting taxes was much more complicated. Now we can consolidate the departments into a smaller agency, which can save taxpayers time and money.”

Gorell, who has taught government and public policy at Cal Lutheran since 2006, said he does not support midyear cuts to education.

“It is important to fully fund education. We (in Ventura County) have among the best schools in California,” he said.

The challengers

MacEnery said she supports the state’s Our Children, Our Future initiative, a November ballot measure that would require local school boards, rather than the state, to make decisions about how to use education funding.

MacEnery said she would also focus on enforcing the rules that define what should be done when an elected official leaves office before their term is over or what should be done when a representative is unable to carry out their duties.

In addition, MacEnery said funding for public transportation is being misused—and more money needs to be spent on providing public buses and other means of mass transportation.

“The county is using public transportation money for highway repairs, dividers and planters,” the candidate said. “I am a single mother who has struggled with transportation.”

The lack of local transit services prevents the county from serving youths, she said.

“(Ventura County) suburbs are dying. They’ve become dated communities where the wealthy elderly live. Our children are leaving. My 26-yearold daughter said, ‘I can’t find a job or a home here,’” the 61-year-old said. “I want to have my kids and grandkids living near me. We need to use taxpayer money to create a community that meets the needs of the young.”

Mullens, a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, was a Los Angeles Unified elementary school teacher in 1986 until he was laid off in 1991 due to budget cuts. After working as an IT manager in the credit card processing industry, he joined the administrative staff of UC Santa Barbara, where he supervises the administrative and business group of the Office of Information Technology/Communications Services.

Like his opponents, Mullens wants to boost education dollars.

“My biggest goal is to improve education funding from kindergarten through 12th grade to the UCs,” said Mullens, who has volunteered as an AYSO assistant coach and referee, and a booster for the Thousand Oaks High School marching band.

The candidate also wants to ease traffic in the county by improving streets and freeways and prevent utility hacking.

“We don’t have the standards to protect utilities from cyber hackers,” he said.

The candidate is also concerned about the state economy.

“I’m open to talking about anything that will help solve budget problems,” Mullens said.

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