By Editorial Board Originally Appeared in The Ventura County Star
It’s not easy these days trying to get anything done if you’re a Democrat in the fractious, Republican-controlled House of Representatives, especially if your eyes are set on major national issues and broad reforms. But the representative’s job can be much more than that — if the focus is on helping your individual district and its many constituents.
Julia Brownley has some grand ideas on restoring trust in federal government, and we wish her well — and a lot of luck — on that. In the meantime, however, Rep. Brownley wants to add to her successes working on some important nuts and bolts of her 26th Congressional District: veterans health care, the future of Naval Base Ventura County, transportation.
We think Brownley, D-Westlake Village, has a solid record of accomplishment for Ventura County since being elected in 2012, and we want that to continue. The Star Editorial Board is endorsing her for re-election over Republican opponent Rafael Dagnesses in the 26th District, which includes almost all of Ventura County except Simi Valley and the Rincon area north of Ventura.
Brownley got her political start as a school board member and won election to the state Assembly in 2006. Six years later she defeated Tony Strickland for the congressional seat and two years ago narrowly won over Jeff Gorell. With the district now deemed safely Democratic and a big primary victory (64 percent), she should have an easier time of it Nov. 8 vs. Dagnesses, who was the only other candidate in June and finished a distant third in 2014.
Brownley serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is the ranking member of its Subcommittee on Health. She has worked hard to improve and expand health care services for veterans, including trying to reduce wait times at the VA clinic in Oxnard and helping efforts to build a new facility there.
As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, she helped Port Hueneme get funds to replenish the sand at its eroding beach, and Channel Islands and Ventura harbors get money for dredging. While that may seem routine, both Port Hueneme and the Ventura Harbor were facing emergency situations. Ventura Harbor was so clogged with sand that it had to be closed in January. Brownley coordinated with the Office of Management and Budget and the Corps of Engineers to get an additional $2.5 million for the Ventura dredging.
She also worked to change the federal status of the Port of Hueneme to potentially make more funding available, and to keep air traffic towers open at the Camarillo and Oxnard airports. And Brownley remains a champion of Naval Base Ventura County, reaching across the aisle to work with Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, and others to bring unmanned Fire Scout helicopters, Triton drones and Coast Guard air units to the facility.
Constituent services don’t earn headlines but are a crucial part of a representative’s job, and Brownley is rightfully proud of her local offices. She says they have helped secure $10 million worth of annual benefits for veterans seeking help navigating the VA.
Brownley did get headlines in June when she joined House Democrats in a sit-in to demand that Speaker Paul Ryan permit a vote on gun-safety legislation. She says it would pass easily if Ryan would just allow a House vote, as would comprehensive immigration reform, which she supports.
Brownley also wants to push a “good government initiative” to restore the public’s trust in Washington. It includes overturning the Citizens United campaign finance decision, getting the rest of the nation to follow California’s lead on eliminating political gerrymandering, and bolstering the Voting Rights Act.
While those are noble causes, we hope Brownley saves some time to more aggressively work on more winnable battles of great concern to us: federal help to deal with our drought, and transportation funding for our clogged freeways. Brownley co-authored the argument in favor of the transportation tax on the ballot in Ventura County, but we need a Plan B in the event it fails.
Opponent Dagnesses has an interesting life story — he escaped as a child with his family from Castro’s Cuba, grew up among gangs in an impoverished Los Angeles area, served in the Marine Corps and LAPD, and now owns a successful real estate business while living in Santa Rosa Valley. But much of his platform — jobs leaving California, over-regulation, opposition to Common Core — lacks specifics and has more to do with Sacramento than Washington.