One of the toughest things to do in state politics in the term-limit area is to clear the field in a partisan primary for a relatively safe seat in the Legislature. Since the openings are predictable (everyone knows when an opening will occur), potential candidates have up to six or eight years to plot their moves.
Although it’s much too early to say for sure, it’s beginning to look like Camarillo Republican Jeff Gorell is on his way to pulling off such a coup. Gorell announced today he has received the endorsement of incumbent Assemblywoman Audra Strickland in the 37th Assembly District. He already has the endorsement of Supervisor Peter Foy of Simi Valley, who some had speculated could be a potential adversary. With Audra Strickland’s endorsement, that means Gorell does not have to fear that the county’s Republican power coiuple — Tony and Audra Strickland — will get behind a different candidate.
Gorell announced his candidacy for 2010 very early — even before the 2008 elections. It appears that early move is paying off; early next month, Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Fresno will host a “meet the next 37th District assemblyman” reception in Sacramento. Events such as that will make it even more difficult for a challenger to emerge, since the institutional support of interest groups in Sacramento will be locked down for Gorell.
His biggest threat is that an unknown, wealthy candidate will emerge — one who can self-fund a campaign. Money has a way of nullifying the adevantage of all those hard-earned early endorsements Gorell is securing.
Then there’s also the question of whether the 37th District remains as safely Republican as it used to be. Incumbent Strickland won re-election by just 4 percentage points in November. Obviously, that was influenced by the Democratic tilt of the presidential race; then again, Strickland was a two-term incumbent while Gorell will be an unknown seeking an open seat. Democrats in the county are already actively recruiting, trying to find a strong candidate for the 2010 campaign.