Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Democrats Stump In Ojai

War, housing and health care top candidates’ agendas

By Linda Harmon
Three Democratic hopefuls were on hand at Saturday’s Democratic Forum held at The Ojai Center for the Arts. Sue Broidy introduced two of the candidates running for the 24th Congressional District, Jill Martinez of Oxnard and Mary Pallant of Oak Park. A third candidate for the seat, Marta Jorgensen of Solvang, did not appear. Their Republican opponent is incumbent Elton Gallegly who has served in this district since 1987. Also present was Ferial Masry, from Newbury Park, who is running for the 37th State Assembly District.
“How can anybody not run in this atmosphere when our representatives vote against everything important in this country?” said Martinez, setting the tone for the event.
Martinez and Pallant each spoke to the crowd and responded to questions ranging from why they were running, to the economy, healthcare, and Iraq.
Martinez has spent 13 years with the Ventura Housing Authority and built a reputation working for affordable housing, one of her main concerns. She said she can’t complete her work on this, or other issues like health care and education, until she gets to Congress.
”I see kids come to school and get maybe their only good meal of the day. Then I turn on C-Span and see them arguing about whether to pay for that $2 school lunch while spending millions on Iraq,” said Martinez. The Presbyterian minister, who taught professional ethics at California State University-Stanislaus, also chided developers and government for considering allowing housing to be built on the site of the 1951 Rocketdyne catastrophe. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory above Simi Valley is where Boeing’s Rocketdyne Division operated and tested nuclear reactors, manufactured nuclear fuel, and made engines for rockets and missiles. She compared the contamination of that site to Three-Mile Island saying, “It is totally irresponsible to put housing there.”
Martinez also stressed her platform of reallocating funds for domestic needs as did Pallant, with both speakers supporting single-payer health care.
Pallant got involved in politics because she is “outraged about the privatizing of government” and “loves the nature of politics.” Pallant says Gallegly wants to give Ojai citizens and others “a Brown Moment,” instead of the customary pink.
“You have to change the people in charge,” said Pallant. “I am running face-to-face, block-to-block to do that.”
On the environment, both cited a need for national leadership and said the lack of it is hampering state improvements. Pallant called for the re-classification of the SUV as a car for fuel standard purposes as a first step in tightening pollution standards.
On social issues both candidates support equal rights for gay constituents and the right of same sex marriage. They also both support a woman’s right to choose, affirmed in Roe vs. Wade.
On campaign finance reform and political lobbyist issues Martinez called on politicians themselves “to be strong enough to stick to our principles” and tell the monied interests ”they can not buy government any longer.” Pallant said she supports public campaign financing laws to do this.
The two were asked what they thought about pushing for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Both agreed it should be on the table.
When asked how each would defeat Gallegy, Pallant said she plans on touting her Democratic status. She believes the national mood and desire for change in the presidential election will provide her party with that coveted coattail effect. Martinez answered that her plan was to be as accessible as possible and “go toe to toe” with him on the issues.
Pallant said what is needed is an active and engaged citizenry. As Democrats, running in what has been a Republican stronghold, she quoted Samuel Adams with a call for “an irate and tireless minority” to take charge.
According to Broidy, Ojai has now turned “blue” with more registered Democrats than Republicans and Ventura County’s Republican lead has narrowed from 10,000 to 5,200. Broidy is hopeful that with the declined to state vote “trending Democratic” Gallegy’s reign may soon be over.
Masry, who is planning her third run for the Republican held Assembly seat, said she surprised everyone including her Democratic supporters with her fierce belief in the democratic process and has garnered support because of it.
Masry, who was born in Saudi Arabia, said with a son who served in Iraq she became involved because she was appalled at the state of democracy in our own country.
“Democracy is our effort as a whole,” said Masry in a short but heartfelt speech. ”I have a deep respect for this process.”
Responding to the morning’s event, Ojai resident Robert Salinas agreed saying, “It was exciting to hear their views and contrast them. It’s an exciting time in politics in general.”

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