Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Victory For The Practical -- Not The Ideological

Yesterday, Ventura’s voters proved once again that they’re practical, not ideological, and they’re more interested in constructive solutions than angry rants.

The solid winners in yesterday’s election were my longtime council colleagues Christy Weir and Carl Morehouse and newcomer Cheryl Heitmann, whom I was proud to endorse. Ken Cozzens finished a strong fourth.

Sometimes there seemed to be a fair amount of shrill rhetoric in this campaign -- reflecting the polarization nationally. The Tea Party and others on the right tried to paint the incumbents and Cheryl as free-spending liberals who are in the pockets of the unions, whereas some Democrats and others on the left pounded on the idea that electing Carla Bonney and Bill Knox would mean the Tea Party would take over the City Council.

A lot of this was exaggerated. In fact, Christy and Carl have taken a very hard line with the unions in the last two years, and Bill Knox – although he is very fiscally conservative – is not quite a Tea Party guy. But in the end it didn’t matter. Christy, Carl, and Cheryl all ran positive campaigns that resonated with the voters. As pointed out, the VCStar's online comments may be vitriolic, but clearly the commenters are not in the majority.

Though they often disagree with each other, Christy and Carl both presented themselves as experienced folks who know and care about our community but nevertheless have experience making hard-nosed decisions. Cheryl drew upon her community college board experience and her experience as executive director of the Ventura Music Festival to emphasize her skill at bringing people together and creating innovative partnerships.

The next few years will be tough ones for the city and these are the skills we will need on the City Council to face up to the challenges.

One of the big lessons from this election – a lesson that has been proven over and over again here in Ventura – is that if you are on the far right or the far left, you can’t win just with your political base. You have to have crossover appeal to those practical, moderate voters – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – who are not zealously ideological. These are the folks who hold the balance of power here in Ventura.

It’s telling, for example, that Tea Party favorite Carla Bonney and union favorite Danny Carrillo got almost exactly the same number of votes. They each got about 3,500 votes, which means about 23% of the voters who cast ballots voted for them. In other words, each one carried their base – on the political right for Carla and on the political left for Danny – but they couldn’t cross over.

As I say, these are not new lessons. The Bonney campaign discovered – as the Camille Harris campaign learned in 2009 – that there is a difference between standing in front of Lowe’s getting people to sign a petition and getting people to cast their ballot for you. The Carrillo campaign learned – as Jerry Martin’s union-based campaign learned in 2007 and 2009 – that you can’t get elected in this town with union backing alone.

Knox, who finished fifth, also fell into this "no-crossover" trap. Bill is an extreme fiscal conservative – too extreme for me – but he’s also an genuine community-oriented guy. Unfortunately for him, the community-oriented aspect of Bill did not come across in the campaign and he wasn’t really the serious contender that many people thought he would be. Cozzens, on the other hand, is well known in town and had broad appeal -- more from the right than from the left, but still -- and that's why he did well.

The bottom line was that most voters ruled out the extremes on the left or right and were left to choose among the four who had crossover appeal – Heitmann, Morehouse, Weir, and Cozzens. The first three were bunched together at the top, with Cozzens doing well in the fourth spot. Which just goes to show you once again: Here in Ventura, if you leave it up to the voters, they’ll usually make the right decision.


  1. I just say too bad there were not four open spots.

  2. The only angry banter I saw was from our own Democrat party attacking Bonney and Knox. WE were denied the right to vote to remove the parking meters, which will ultimately be removed anyway. Fillmore had the chance to reject their tax increase, why didn't we?

  3. I agree with much of your assessment. But one way or the other we are still on the course of the same management as in the previous decade which has not changed the direction of the city. No matter who is at council, the city cannot constantly ask for increased revenue from the citizens while not developing increased revenue from the business sector. The harbor is progressing very well, and it would seem to me that is because of its independence from the city council. On the other hand Seaward and California street are totally underdeveloped, and that is the charge of the city council. Best to you and I look forward to your continued involvement in our city.

  4. Any attempt to impose new "fees" on Ventura taxpayers or restrict our freedom to drive, especially during this depression, and a recall campaign will begin.

  5. The majority of the "angry rants" were actually directed at Carla Bonney and Bill Knox (the so-called Tea Party candidates). I find Mayor Fulton's characterization of Christy Weir, Carl Morehouse, and Cheryl Heitmann as running positive campaigns as a bit disingenuous. They and their supporters made plenty of negative references to Carla and Bill during the candidate forums, in letters to the editor, and in on-line postings on the VC Star.

    I was actually pleasantly surprised at Bill Knox's showing and Ken Cozzens's as well. But, I think there are two things working against challengers to incumbents in the City Council races in Ventura: (1) The elections are held in odd years, resulting in lower voter turnout, which favors incumbents; and (2) There are too many non-incumbent candidates on the ballot (including people who don't have a prayer of winning). This result is a splintering of the vote among the challengers, again working in favor of the incumbents. For example, if Ken Cozzens had not run, we'd probably be congratulating Councilman Knox right now.

    Hopefully, the City Council will be looking at long-promised changes to the City Charter which would change City Council elections to even-numbered years and electing a strong Mayor.


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