Citing his concern for national security and responsible spending, 37-year-old attorney Michael Tenenbaum officially threw his cap into the campaign ring at half past noon last Friday. He declared his intent to unseat Congressional Representative Elton Gallegly a mere three and a half hours before Gallegly announced to the Ventura County Star that he would unseat himself and not seek re-election, due to health concerns. Election law begs to differ, however, since Gallegly’s paperwork had already been filed, and so the race continues with two candidates technically vying for the Republican vote.

Harvard and University of California Los Angeles grad Tenenbaum displayed a campaign placard that read “Responsive. Responsible. Republican.” as he took to the podium outside the Ventura Government Center. He opened by introducing himself as the son of immigrants and by praising the American tradition of unlimited opportunity. Explaining that he is local, Tenenbaum said he felt compelled to return home to California after finishing school, then quickly outlined his ideals as a politician and took the opportunity to critique Rep. Gallegly. “Gallegly’s legislative agenda is misguided at best,” he stated, adding that his own priorities in office would be “reigning in the size of the government and cutting the pork barrel spending that has embarrassed this district.” He added, “Gallegly is failing to do his job. He is wasting tax dollars.”

Also misguided, Tenenbaum alleged, was the message he received from Clark Johnson, husband of Shelley Johnson, Gallegly’s campaign manager. In a phone message, Johnson had urged Tenenbaum not to declare candidacy. Tenenbaum held a portable stereo up before the crowd and announced, “This is how democracy should not work,” and played a tape of Johnson’s voicemail. On the recording, Johnson warned Tenenbaum, “This is just a little friendly advice: [running against Gallegly] may be bad if you have long term political aspirations. I highly recommend you not turn in your papers. You’re going to have enemies you don’t want. You want to have the name that is Elton’s behind you.”

Asked for comment, Johnson clarified, “Again, it was done with the intention of it being friendly advice, not as it was portrayed [at the press conference], as being a threat.  Neither my wife nor Congressman Gallegly had any knowledge I was making the call.”  

Brushing off the warning as inappropriate, Tenenbaum went on to charge that Gallegly’s stance on illegal immigration is faulty, noting that Gallegly attributed the high population of illegal immigrants in California to the overall attractiveness of the U.S. Said Tenenbaum, “Given the choice between making it less attractive to be in this country, or to protect the borders, you know where I stand.”

In what has turned out to be a very eventful lead-up to the primary in June, Tenenbaum has become Gallegly’s sole Republican challenger. He appeared poised to confront the now dubious incumbent (at time of press, it was not clear whether Gallegly would continue his campaign or retire with his name still on the ballot).

— Saundra Sorenson

No! More! Wire! Hangers!

The Democratic Women’s Council of the Conejo Valley plans to hold a coat hanger collection to protest Gov. Mike Rounds’ recent legislative ban on abortion in South Dakota. The new ban — which would go into effect July 1 unless it is suspended during legal challenges — deems all abortions in the state illegal unless proven life-threatening to the mother.

Kathy Smiley, administrative vice president of DWC, explains that the “symbolic gesture” of sending coat hangers to the governor is a nod to the days before Roe v. Wade was passed, when lack of birth control options meant that many women depended on more dangerous, even self-induced, forms of abortion. Says Smiley, “Coat hangers and knitting needles were the instruments of choice. Apparently [Rounds and his supporters] would like these to be the instruments of choice again and to drive abortion back into the underground.”

At a brunch on March 18, Rochelle Sechooler will give a talk entitled \”Psychology of Political Persuasion,\” followed by a presentation by Jane Bright, mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq and founder of Gold Star Families for Peace; $3 to $5 donations will buy a coat hanger and the postage to send it to Rounds, part of a larger effort launched throughout the country by similar groups. Coat hangers may be accompanied by personal or form letters to Rounds, and proceeds will be donated to the National Organization for Women or Planned Parenthood. Non-members are invited to attend and donate.

For information call 497-1003. The presentation, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., is $25 per person, including brunch.

— Saundra Sorenson