At 60, Democrat Pedro Nava is gearing up to run for his third-and, if successful, final- two-year term representing the 35th Assembly District, which includes the Santa Ynez Valley, the South Coast, Oxnard, and the City of Ventura. Since Nava last ran in 2004, Democrats have padded their gerrymandered advantage, and now lead the GOP in registration 46 percent to 30 percent, with the rest independents or third-party voters, according to the secretary of state. That does not bode well for his opponent, Greg Gandrud, the former member of the Carpinteria City Council campaigning as the Republican candidate in a steep uphill race for Nava’s seat.
Gandrud moved around throughout Southern California, attending high schools in Redondo, Chatsworth, and Manhattan Beach in addition to spending a year studying in Norway, reinventing himself each time he moved. Now, at 47, the USC-educated Gandrud-whose resume already includes stints selling medical and dental imaging systems at his current job as the head of a small accounting and financial services company-is trying to reinvent himself again in his bid for the 35th District.
The South Coast’s biggest gadfly on transportation issues, Gandrud was ousted after one very maverick term on the council and, as a Republican running in a left-leaning district, is running once more in the familiar role of outsider. His time on the Carpinteria City Council made for a gnarly, if entertaining, four years, during which he often finished on the short end of 4-1 votes.
Pushing a pro-business agenda in a slow-growth town, he fought other members over development, a plan to permit slant drilling for offshore oil, and, most notably, his effort to widen Highway 101. “I don’t think that keeping a small-town atmosphere and having some economic growth are incompatible,” he said. However, his views ran afoul of community sentiment when he backed a proposal by Venoco to site a slant drilling tower in town, and he lost his 2006 reelection bid. Moderate to liberal on social issues-as a gay man, he opposes the same-sex marriage-banning Proposition 8-Gandrud is a free-market conservative on fiscal matters.
In the other corner, there’s Nava, a former prosecutor with a fireplug build who takes a blue-collar approach to politics, focusing on incremental, pragmatic fixes of government programs more than big ideas or sweeping reforms. “I’m a practical problem solver,” he said of himself.
Term limits will force Nava from office in 2010, just as he is gaining influence in the Capitol. He’s chairman of the Banking and Finance Committee, which referees high-stakes fights between and among consumers and powerful special interests; he sits on the Appropriations Committee, which oversees all spending; he leads a special panel on emergency preparedness and homeland security, where he’s won a fight to get legislative oversight of $350 million in federal anti-terrorism grants to the state; and he maintains other assignments on transportation and environment committees. Additionally, Nava has introduced legislation to crack down on Greka and other “serial spiller” oil companies, to help ease recovery from the Gap Fire, and to require hunters to use lead-free ammunition in areas where the California Condor thrives.
Additionally, Gandrud and Nava take clearly different stances on some key issues. Gandrud opposes raising state taxes and wants to close the state budget’s $17 billion deficit with cuts and unspecified economic development programs. Nava, on the other hand, has endorsed the Democratic budget plan, which includes $8 billion in new taxes. And while Gandrud favors expanded exploration and development of oil off the coast of California, Nava has taken a strong anti-offshore drilling stance.