In 2012, when California’s redistricting map for Congress went into effect, the 26th District for the U.S. House of Representatives shifted from a Republican-represented district in the San Gabriel Valley to a seat that was basically up for grabs in Ventura County. Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake, moved to Oak Park from Santa Monica when Supervisor Steve Bennett pulled out his bid to run for the seat, and challenged former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks. It was one of the most expensive races in history, Brownley winning by a 4 percent margin, 52 percent to 48 percent. Now, the race is heating up again. Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, has thrown his hat in the ring, Brownley having served only one two-year term to date.


They spoke with the VCReporter this week, addressing the issues on the national level and right here in Ventura County.

BROWNLEY

Julia Brownley

 

VCReporter: Why are you involved in politics at this time?

Brownley: I currently have the privilege of serving as Ventura County’s congresswoman and I am committed to supporting our veterans, fighting for an economic agenda that supports women and their families, and changing Washington so that it better works for the American people.

 

What are the greatest issues facing our country right now? If elected, what do you hope to accomplish in the next two years to address them?

I will further my work on a women’s economic agenda that includes equal pay for equal work, access to health care and protection of women’s health care rights, and increasing the minimum wage. I will continue working hard to support Ventura County’s job creators, including Naval Base Ventura County, our agriculture industry, our hi-tech and biotech industries and our small businesses. As the ranking member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Health, I will continue to fight to make sure our veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned and deserve.

 

Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I am a strong leader with a track record of fighting for women, working families, the environment and veterans. I am proud to be supported by a broad coalition of Ventura County teachers, firefighters, nurses, deputy sheriffs and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

 

Coming from a military family, I understand the importance of supporting our servicemen and -women, our veterans and their families. Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) is critical to our national security and to our community, and I will continue to fight to protect and strengthen it.

 

Many people believe money and politics don’t mix. What are your thoughts on campaign finance reform and the Citizens United ruling?

I am deeply concerned about the current campaign finance system because I don’t believe corporations should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

 

In Congress, I have co-sponsored several constitutional amendments that would reverse the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens’ United and McCutcheon decisions. When I was in the California Assembly, I championed campaign finance reform as author of the California DISCLOSE Act that would require the top donors of political advertisements for candidates and initiatives to be clearly identified on all mediums of political advertising, whether TV, radio or print. This is common-sense legislation that will allow voters to be much better informed about the information they receive. I am working to create the same transparency on a national level as a co-sponsor of the federal DISCLOSE Act.

 

Where do you see this affordable health care issue two years from now?

I strongly believe that every American deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care. Whether that means improving care at the VA, protecting Medicare for our seniors or fixing and improving the Affordable Care Act so that it works for all Americans, the ultimate goal must be to increase access to health care while reducing the cost to middle-class families. I will continue to fight to make sure insurance companies do not charge women more than men, and that they continue to provide contraception and preventive treatments like cancer screenings. I believe health care and current health care policy do not go far enough to reduce cost to families, that access must be increased, and that if we work together to address these issues we can make sure that the ultimate goal of affordable access to quality care is achieved.

 

What is your position on what the U.S. should do regarding the Islamic State [aka ISIS]?

I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the advance of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the impact on our national interests in the Middle East. While we cannot let the situation spin out of control, I understand that the American people do not support American military escalation, either. America should help defeat ISIS to protect our security, but we can’t solve the problems of the Middle East with the U.S. military alone. We must work with our partners and friends in the international community to fight back and hold ISIS responsible for their actions. The goal is protecting American lives and interests, and I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues in Congress to address the shifting situation in the Middle East, including ISIS.

 

How do you see the drought affecting the growth and prosperity of Ventura County?

The stability of our economy and food supply, and the safety of our communities, depend on us working together to address this drought. Altogether, farming and farm-dependent businesses provide an estimated 31,000 jobs in Ventura County, more than any other sector of the economy except services. Because of agriculture, Ventura County has a unique beauty, heritage, community and economy — but our community depends on reliable access to fresh water. For the sake of our economy, and to maintain our quality of life in Ventura County, we must address the water needs of our residents and our farmers. Earlier this year, I held a round-table discussion in Ventura County to hear more about how this current drought is affecting local growers and water users. I appreciate the time our water suppliers, farmers and county leadership took to meet and hear each other’s concerns. In Congress, I support the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, which represents a balanced approach to the severe drought threatening California communities, including Ventura County. It contains measures intended to provide additional disaster relief assistance, expedite projects to increase water storage, and provide flexibility to maximize water deliveries without undermining state and federal environmental protections. Ventura County’s water districts have done a tremendous job planning for a drought, but we must still do more, and I will continue to support long-term solutions to our water needs in Congress.

 

Do you believe in man-made climate change? If yes, what can you do as a legislator to help change the course?

Most definitely. In Congress, I am fighting to safeguard the environment and have been recognized for my work by receiving the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. As a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environmental Subcommittee, I have been working to protect and preserve our environment for future generations. I support strategic investments in clean, renewable and sustainable energy and the responsible stewardship of our natural resources. I believe these actions will help counterbalance the effects of climate change in our communities. For our economic security and our environmental security and the future of our country, I believe we must address climate change by investing in innovation regarding conservation, renewable energies of the future, and reducing the levels of pollution released by human activity.

 

Do you believe that Republicans and Democrats can work together for the common good of the nation? If yes, please explain how.

As a new member of Congress, I asked to sit on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) because I wanted to serve the 48,000 veterans who live in Ventura County and because it is one of the few committees in Congress where Republicans and Democrats are able to work together in a bipartisan manner. Through this work, I have formed strong relationships with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues and with the Republican chair and Democratic ranking members of the committee. With their leadership, and our determination to work together, the committee has been able to address issues related to the claims backlog, push for administrative changes at the VA and address the recent scandal at the Phoenix VA by investigating the root causes, holding those accountable, and drafting legislation that ultimately received overwhelming bipartisan support and was recently signed into law by the president. So yes, I know Republicans and Democrats can work together for the common good. I believe the entire Congress should look to the example set by the members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to focus on the real challenges our country is facing, set rhetoric aside, roll up our sleeves and find common ground that will deliver real solutions.

 

With congressional approval ratings at historically low levels, what do you believe needs to be done to get Washington moving again?

We need to set rhetoric aside, reduce the influence of outside money on elections, stop politicians from creating gerrymandered districts, and concentrate on solving the challenges facing our nation. As a new member of Congress, I have seen just how broken Washington is and I am fed up with politicians who put themselves before our country. When Congressional

Republicans shut down the government, I refused to accept my own pay and donated it to a local veterans’ charity. I opposed pay raises for members of Congress, worked to suspend their pay until a budget is passed, and co-sponsored legislation forbidding them from using taxpayer dollars to fly first class.

 

Americans have been put through the ringer over the last couple of decades with negative campaigns that focus on the faults of the opponents. Would you agree to a Clean Campaign Pledge at this point in the election cycle?

It’s an important election, not only for Ventura County but for the nation, so I fully support the voters being presented with a presentation of the facts that accurately informs them about the different visions the two candidates have for our community and our country.

 

GORELL


Jeff Gorell

 

VCReporter: Why are you involved in politics at this time?

Gorell: As a military veteran, a former Ventura County deputy district attorney, a husband and father of three, I am very concerned about the direction our nation is headed. Excessive partisanship and failed leadership have become the norm in Washington, D.C. America is adrift and we need fresh leadership to get us back on the right track again. 

 

Congress is broken and the incumbent is part of the problem. I have a record as a bipartisan leader who works with Democrats and Republicans for positive change. That’s the kind of leadership we need to break the gridlock and restore common sense to Congress.

 

What are the greatest issues facing our country right now? If elected, what do you hope to accomplish in the next two years to address them?           

The economy is our greatest challenge. Too many of our families and small businesses are having difficulty paying their bills while the politicians in Washington continue to squabble. We need to get government bureaucracy under control and reduce the costly financial burdens that are holding back America’s economic recovery.

 

As our representative in Congress, I will fight to strengthen the middle class and create jobs for the people of the 26th District. We must protect Naval Base Ventura County and the 19,500 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs it contributes to our area. NBVC has been on the Base Realignment and Closure list (BRAC) twice for consideration. I will unify the community behind defending the base in the proposed 2017 BRAC round and preserve this important national security and local economic engine.

 

In Congress, I will work to enact a moratorium on government regulations that kill jobs.

 

I will support tax relief for our small businesses and expanded local water supplies to help Ventura County farmers and farm workers keep their jobs during the current drought. 

 

I will take action to support greater economic opportunities for women, including pay equity in the workplace and increased small business ownership. Congress needs to stop the divisive “war on women” rhetoric and instead work for constructive bipartisan changes to support the growing role of women in America’s future economic success.


 

Why are you the best candidate for this position?

My diverse background as a Naval officer, former criminal prosecutor, local business owner and Ventura County state assemblymember will enable me to better serve people of District 26. I understand the concerns of our congressional district because I’m from here in our local community.

 

My military experience will help me to better protect jobs at Naval Base Ventura County.  I’ve partnered Lt. Gov. [Gavin] Newsom [D-San Francisco] and local employers to create a bipartisan Economic Gold Team that is working to bring jobs and businesses to Ventura County.

 

In addition, I have a track record for focusing on solutions instead of politics. The

nonprofit Sunlight Foundation ranks me as the second-most moderate and bipartisan legislator in California — out of 120 lawmakers. By contrast, the current incumbent is one of the most partisan members of Congress. We need more leadership and less partisanship from our representative in Congress.

 

 

Many people believe money and politics don’t mix. What are your thoughts on campaign finance reform and the Citizens United ruling? 

I support campaign reforms that increase voter participation and public transparency in elections.  That’s why I am a strong supporter of the open primary to give independent and nonpartisan voters a greater voice in choosing candidates for public office.  

 

I have authored legislation to improve voting opportunities and access to absentee voting for our military personnel serving overseas. I supported Senate Bill 52 (the DISCLOSE Act) that would require more transparency for who is funding political advertising.

 

In addition, I support making the position of secretary of state — California’s top election official — a nonpartisan office. I do not believe it is appropriate for a partisan politician to be in charge of running our elections. County elections officials are nonpartisan. California’s top elections official should be as well.

 

Where do you see this affordable health care issue two years from now?

Congress needs to work swiftly to preserve Americans’ ability to choose our own doctor and health insurance plan without being financially penalized by the government in Washington, D.C.  Consumers, not government, should be empowered to make the best health care choices for our families. Women’s right to make their own health care decisions — including reproductive choices — must be protected.

 

What is your position on what the U.S. should do regarding the Islamic State [aka ISIS]? 

The Islamic State is an evil terrorist entity that must be confronted and destroyed.

I believe that Congress must work to restore America’s leadership in the world.  This does not mean sending troops to every conflicted area of the globe. It does mean that we must provide a clear, consistent vision that the U.S. stands as the beacon of freedom on the world stage.

 

During my two tours overseas, the last one in 2011-12 where I was embedded with U.S. Marines in Southwestern Afghanistan, I saw firsthand why America must continue to be vigilant against both terrorist organizations and states that support or harbor them. We can no longer lead from behind.

 

How do you see the drought affecting the growth and prosperity of Ventura County?

The drought is an economic time bomb that threatens California’s quality of life. Congress needs to improve our water storage and conveyance capabilities and expand the use of water recycling technologies to provide desperately needed new water supplies during the current drought. Water is vital to California’s economic success. Congress must step up to the plate and better provide the resources to help us manage our precious water resources. I have already started working with local community leaders to develop and streamline water projects that will allow Ventura County to better address current and future droughts.

 

Do you believe in man-made climate change? If yes, what can you do as a legislator to help change the course?

Yes, human activity affects climate change. I support incentives to expand the use of clean energy technologies and reduce the environmental impact of carbon-based fuels. I voted to place tough restrictions on oil and natural gas fracking in California. I oppose the presidents’ Draconian cap-and-trade law that would put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.

 

Do you believe that Republicans and Democrats can work together for the common good of the nation? If yes, please explain how.

Yes I do. I have demonstrated my commitment to working across the political aisle with my strong bipartisan record in the state Assembly.

 

I worked closely with Gov. [Jerry] Brown [D] to support the creation of a State Rainy Day Reserve Fund in the state budget. I also worked with the governor to increase funding for Ventura County schools and secure emergency monies to protect Hueneme Beach from erosion. In addition, I negotiated with the governor to provide an eight-year statewide manufacturing sales tax exemption to create and expand jobs. 

Concerned about protecting personal privacy, I authored the nation’s toughest law — passed with overwhelming bipartisan support — to place strict limits on the use of aerial drones for surveillance. I will bring this same bipartisan approach to Congress as our new U.S. representative.

 

 

With congressional approval ratings at historically low levels, what do you believe needs to be done to get Washington moving again?
We need to elect new leaders who will break the vicious cycle of political partisanship that has made Congress one of America’s most unproductive and unpopular institutions. We cannot get the federal government moving forward again by electing the same old politicians — like incumbent [Julia] Brownley [D-Westlake] — who are responsible for Congress’ failures.

 

I’ve always believed that one person can make a difference.  My election would send a message to both political parties that the American people want to move beyond partisan bickering and government gridlock.

 

Partisan incumbents like Brownley are holding our country back. It’s time for more moderate voices in Congress to restore common sense in Washington.

 

Americans have been put through the ringer over the last couple of decades with negative campaigns that focus on the faults of the opponents. Would Jeff Gorell agree to a Clean Campaign Pledge at this point in the election cycle?
During my elections for state Assembly, I have always run positive bipartisan campaigns. In the 2010 election, I even invited my opponent to speak to the public policy class I was teaching at Cal Lutheran University. Unfortunately, incumbent Brownley and her partisan special interest allies have a track record for misleading and negative campaigns. Last election, Brownley ran a deceitful smear campaign against respected Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks. They have already started running negative ads this year too. Unlike the incumbent, my campaign will focus on solutions, not on partisan political attacks.