Thursday, April 10, 2008

Senate Race Runs through Ojai

Tony Strickland, candidate for the 19th District State Senate, speaks Wednesday to the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated

By Nao Braverman
Tony Strickland, Republican candidate for the 19th District State Senate, made a special appearance in Ojai, Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Health and Retirement Center.
The former assemblyman who served two terms in the Assembly and ran unsuccessfully for
California state controller in 2006, addressed a relatively inconspicuous local group: the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated.
Seated around bouquets of American flags, enjoying a catered lunch, Ojai’s Republican women asked Strickland questions on topics ranging from the local school district’s budget woes, to illegal immigration.
The Moorpark-based candidate presented some of his priorities if he is elected, which include tightening the depleted state budget, repealing sales tax on gasoline, cracking down on benefits granted to undocumented immigrants, and decreasing funding cuts to California schools, all of which struck a chord with the intimate audience made up of Republican women, mostly from Ojai.
The Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated, has been meeting over lunch for 55 years, according to member and past president, Mary Osborn, who invited Strickland to Ojai for the meeting. The group’s objective is to get more locals to register as Republicans, a bit of an uphill battle in the Ojai Valley, but Osborn is not discouraged.
“I feel like the conservatives are the silent majority.” she said. “It is perceived by some people that if you live in the Ojai Valley and you are a Republican you better keep quiet.”
Within the city of Ojai are 1,481 registered Republican voters, 2,171 Democratic voters and 828 “Declined to State” voters, for 33 percent, 48 percent and 18.4 percent respectively. Osborn said she believes there are more Republicans in the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley. But she doesn’t have any updated statistics on Oak View, Mira Monte and Casitas Springs.
These Republican women have recently been making an effort to reach out to a younger demographic. The majority of Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated are seniors, but Osborn sees this as a reflection of Ojai’s growing elderly population, as well as who is available at lunch time.
When the women’s group first began to meeting in 1953 it was probably more of a social club of mostly stay-at-home women of the 1950s who wanted to get together over lunch and talk about politics, said Osborn.
As things have changed, it has been more difficult for younger working women to find the time to get involved, she added.
Despite its size the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated has won several national awards including an award for a small club and the “My Favorite Teacher’s award, said Osborn.
Education was clearly a priority for many of the Republican women who expressed their concern about the reduction in funding for the Ojai Unified School District. Strickland, whose wife, Audra Strickland, succeeded him in the Assembly, said he too, prioritized education.
He is known for challenging former California Gov. Grey Davis’s contracts with energy providers, which eventually lead to Davis’s recall, and traces California’s budget crisis back to Davis’ governance. But Strickland said he does ntot entirely agree with Davis’s successor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10 percent budget cuts across the board.
“Offering an across-the-board budget cut is an easy answer,” said Strickland. “But just like in a family budget we need to consider what is most important.”
Some budgets should get cut more than others, and our children’s education, according to Strickland, can’t afford to lose much.
The Ojai Unified School District’s budget cuts have everyone in the valley thinking about the education of Ojai’s children.
Osborn agreed that the interest in improving local education could be one place that the Ojai Valley’s Republicans and Democrats find common ground.
Other than education, Ojai Valley’s Republican women value public safety, safe roads and safe schools, she said,
Strickland is concerned about the effect that cuts to public safety funding will have on crime. Jails letting prisoners out earlier due to cuts in their budgets would undeniably have a negative effect on public safety, he said.
But overall, Strickland’s motto is to look at the glass half full, and he hopes California will change for the better. His speech, appropriately titled “California’s Best Days Are Ahead.” closed with a burst of applause from Ojai Valley’s Republican Women.

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