The changing color of politics in Ventura County

Democrats now outnumber Republicans by 1,000 registered voters

By Hannah Guzik 03/13/2008

In the painterly terms of modern politics, Ventura County’s new hue is blue, the Ventura County Registrar of Voters Elections Division announced earlier this month.

As of March 10, there were 1,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the county. The blue lead has more than doubled since it was first announced by Vote Blue organizers March 4. Four years ago registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by some 16,000 voters, according to Vote Blue.

Still, Ventura Democratic blogger and activist David Atkins said the county is actually closer to the color purple.

“Basically this is a purple district,” he said. “It was slightly red, and now it just turned blue, but we still have a Republican representative (24th District Congressman Elton Gallegly) here.”

But Atkins, who is a Ventura precinct captain for the presidential campaign of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, said the blue shift will have an effect on national and local elections.

“What we’re seeing in Ventura County is very similar to what we’re seeing nationwide,” he said. “We’re getting more independents disgusted with Republican rule, increased Democratic registration and we’re seeing Democrats turn out in huge numbers to vote.”

But will a slightly more-blue-but-still-purple Ventura County still be able to accurately predict, through votes cast, who will be the next president of the United States, as has been the case for the last 21 out of 22 presidential elections?

Atkins believes it will, because the countywide change reflects a similar nationwide shift.

“I think it’s highly likely,” he said. “I expect Ventura to go for the Democratic nominee and expect the Democratic nominee to win, but if McCain wins, I expect Ventura to go for McCain.”

Mike Osborn, Chair of the Ventura County Republican Party, believes Senator John McCain will win the 2008 Presidential Election.

“Nothing that happened is going to change the math that is going to govern the Republican elections,” he said. “I expect Ventura County to vote for the next president, John McCain, and be right again.”

Osborn said the change in registered voters does not show that Democrats have made “dramatic inroads” into the county and that he expects his party to reverse the shift soon, as it did in 2000 when blue voters briefly outnumbered red voters in Ventura County.

The Democratic lead in the county occurred because the County Registrar purged about 3,800 registered Republican voters from the official list because they had either moved out of the county, died or had duplicate registrations, Osborn said. Also, four Democratic presidential candidates had campaign representatives out-in-force in the county trying to register voters, and the Republican candidates largely did not, he added.

“Registrations are important. They give you bragging rights. But the thing that really counts is turning out to vote,” Osborn said. “Traditionally when we see this kind of registration, it doesn’t result in a larger turnout.”

A few elected officials serving Ventura County have done some shuffling in recent months that may or may not be related to the rising number of registered Democrats in the county.

Atkins, for example, sees Republican Senator Tom McClintock’s decision to leave Ventura County, after being termed out of his 19th District seat, and run for a seat in the 4th Congressional District in Auburn, Calif., as proof that the Democratic majority is affecting local politics.

“I think that McClintock feels that he can get out of his current position and go to fairer ground,” Atkins said. “I think there’s a sense that it’s not friendly territory in this area anymore.”

Co-founder and treasurer of Vote Blue, Helen Conly, put it a little more bluntly.

“We like the thought that the new Democratic majority has chased Tom McClintock out of Ventura County with his carpet bag to run for another position elsewhere,” she said.

Osborn, however, said he doesn’t think McClintock’s decision is related to the voter registration changes. He says the senator wants to serve in Northern California to be nearer to his family and because there is already a strong Republican representative, Gallegly, serving the county.

Both camps agree that the race for the 19th District Senate seat will be fiercely competitive. Former Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson, a Democrat, and Tony Strickland, a Republican, have already announced they will be running for the seat.

“I just know that we’re going to be working hard,” said Osborn. “It’s going to be a battle.”


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