Current City Councilman Erik Nasarenko has formally stepped away from the campaign trail, choosing to end his run for the 37th Assembly office currently held by Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, who will be terming out in 2016.
Nasarenko, 45, joins Ventura County FOOD Share President and CEO Bonnie Weigel in notable campaigns that ended abruptly, Weigel’s when she announced and subsequently ended her bid for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors District 1 seat currently held by Steve Bennett.
Nasarenko also holds a position as a deputy district attorney, where he prosecutes sexual assault and child molestation cases. On making the decision to end his bid, Nasarenko says that he wouldn’t have enough time to run for office and juggle his many responsibilities, notably raising his 6- and 9-year-old children.
“I missed my two young children, as well as my wife,” said Nasarenko. “The rigors of the campaign combined with also being a deputy DA and a City Councilmember were simply too much.”
After announcing her campaign in February, Weigel withdrew her interest in the race, citing the potential conflict of interest in regard to her position at FOOD Share, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization.
“The minute I felt that there was any sort of worry about how FOOD Share could be stewarded under my leadership, it became a very easy decision to just step down,” said Weigel.
With two prominent names withdrawing from the campaign trail early on in the buildup to the 2016 elections, the Ventura County political climate may seem a bit turbulent, but for Herb Gooch, Ph.D, professor in the Department of Political Science at California Lutheran University, California politics as a whole are a bit blasé.
“The sort of excitement of the last couple of years, where you had a shuffle of Democrats going out and Republicans going in, those sort of battles for the most part are over,” said Gooch, who says that Gov. Jerry Brown is so “completely in charge” that the fireworks are over. “Ventura County had been interesting because the last couple of years it seemed to have completed a turnover to the Democrats; this had been one of the last coastal holdouts for Republicans.”
As far as why Nasarenko and Weigel threw in the towel so early on, Gooch says that sometimes the reality of how much money is needed to run a campaign comes as a shock to potential candidates.
“It suddenly becomes self-evident to you how much money you have to raise. That’s probably the worst aspect of entering politics. They realize that everybody isn’t going to be out in the streets for them and they have to raise all this money.”
Another factor that fed into Nasarenko’s decision was the size and scope of the 37th Assembly District, which stretches from Buellton and Goleta in Santa Barbara to Piru in Ventura County.
“It’s very difficult to campaign from noon to 1 on weekdays and after 6 on weeknights, said Nasarenko. After stepping down, Nasarenko endorsed fellow Democrat Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara school board member, who also noted that the 37th district is a vast one.
“I have family in Santa Paula, family in Oxnard, family in Ventura and Solvang,” said Limón. It’s a big geographical district but it’s one that is familiar to me from my roots.
Limón says that she has received campaign contributions from around 200 individuals and has been endorsed by over two dozen officials, including state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and current Assemblyman Das Williams.
On Nasarenko’s endorsement, Limón says she is honored.
“He clearly is someone who cares a lot about the district, and to have someone who cares as much as he does is very meaningful.”
Only Limón has filled out the paperwork, for the time being, to run for the 37th Assembly seat, which will be vacated by Williams. Supervisor Bennett’s District 1 seat is currently uncontested since Bennett has announced his campaign for re-election.
“I see myself pursuing elected office at some point in the future when I have more time available for me to do so,” said Nasarenko. “I love public service and I really enjoy the legislative process; I hope as a City Councilmember or another elected official to continue to contribute in some modest way.”