Showdown at Cal State Channel Islands- 26th District candidates debate

By Kelsey Stuart and Shelby Baker

On October 12th the two primary candidates for the 26th congressional district, Jeff Gorell and Julia Brownley (Incumbent), went head-to-head in their second debate at CSU Channel Islands.  The debate ran from 6-7:30 pm and was proctored by the Ventura Star’s Timm Herdt. The room was packed with students, supporters, and members of the community itching to see the two candidates in action.

The race between Brownley and Gorell is one of the most contested and watched congressional races. This was the last debate between the two candidates and forced them to layout their policies on controversial issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and immigration.   

The Players:


L-R: Jeff Gorell and Julia Brownley (Photo:








Jeff Gorell, Assemblyman for the 44th district. He currently serves as a Commander (intelligence officer) in the United States Navy Reserve. He has completed two one-year tours to the Middle East and Afghanistan and was decorated for his leadership in a combat zone. Gorell is a member of the faculty at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA where he has taught government and public policy since 2006.  From 1999-2006, he was a Ventura County Deputy District Attorney where he served as a trial prosecutor in the major narcotics and violent felony units. He prosecuted multiple “strike” career criminals, gang violence, and drug trafficking.

Julia Brownley, the incumbent Democrat Congresswoman campaigning to enter into her second term as congresswoman. Brownley served on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs where she was elected as Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health. She also serves on the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Brownley is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, serving on the Subcommittee on Environment and Space, where she works on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, legislation to invest in innovation through research and development, and ways to improve the competitiveness of the United States. She was formerly a District 41state Assemblywoman, from Santa Monica 2006-12 (termed out).


Debate video:

The Scene:


The room was packed and stragglers were left with standing room only until the closing statements of the debate. It was clear in the introduction of the candidates that Gorell had a few more supporters at the event, or at least a more enthusiastic group. The debate went fairly smooth with Herdt needing to reprimand the crowd only a handful of times from “inappropriate” applause and laughter. Gorell and Brownley were both civil and interactive with the crowd afterward, taking pictures, shaking hands, and engaging in conversations with the attendees.

Similar Ground- A moderate Republican and a straight up Democrat shocked the room with answers that seemed to follow down the same aisle. It wasn’t all bubbles and sunbeams, but it came close. There were fewer differences than might have been expected.

Environment: both candidates agree on the importance of the environment and acknowledged the need for a national clean energy policy.

Immigration: Border security is crucial, followed by an emphasis to keep the family together. Both agree that immigration labor is an economic driver and there needs to be a way to accommodate immigrant workers.

Gorell suggested a policy to facilitate immigrant workers coming to the US, working within legal limits, and then returning to country of origin. He said with the addition of border security and eliminating the ability for employers to pay under the table, “We can support the 2.5 million that are here that want to work by not splitting them up from their families and offering them a chance at the legal process for citizenship.” Not mentioned were, by various estimates, between 12-30 million illegal immigrants.

Brownley stated, “We are a country of immigrants, of dreamers,” and advocated a comprehensive immigration reform.

Government Shutdown: Both strongly opposed and will oppose a government shutdown

Fracking: Although it seemed Brownley was less enthusiastic about fracking, both conceded to vote pro-fracking in CA. This was followed by a rebuttal from Gorell about a statement from Brownley against his anti-environmentalism voting record. Brownley was unable to respond to Gorell’s defense.

Marriage Equality: Both support gay marriage, Brownley on the federal level and Gorell on the state level, although Gorell did state his personal belief that “marriage is between a man and woman.”

Ebola: Yes, the Ebola question did come up and both candidates agree that is needs to be addressed by the US after the recent cases in Texas.

Gorell took a more isolationist stance to contain the disease and screen flights while Brownley would like to “go straight to the source,” sending US personnel to Africa to contain the spread there.

Protection of the coastline: Both are for it.

Global warming/climate change: Both believe in man-made Global Warming, however Gorell.

Syria and ISIS:

Brownley held the more conservative foreign policy towards ISIS. She supports training “Moderate, pragmatic Syrian” rebels and working with a coalition to fight ISIS.

Gorell recognizes ISIS as a threat to national security that is unmatched since as far back as WWII. He believes air strikes are not enough, and suggested there is a good chance boots on the ground will be needed to protect the national security of the US. The term “boots on the ground” carries many stigmas, but Gorell only referenced Special Forces, not the entire US Army.

Pro-choice: Despite the many campaigns against Gorell being against women, he defended himself against these accusations, referencing his vote on AB-154, and clearly stated that he is pro-choice, along with Brownley.

The Dance:

The two candidates faced off with great force – speaking from experience in many areas and in some, straight from their hearts.

Opposing stances

AB-154: Although this bill was already passed and remains to be signed into law by the governor, Gorell’s vote against AB-154 was brought up in regards to his position on abortion. AB-154 was a bill that legalized abortions performed by nurses and midwives. It was devised to make abortions of up to 12-weeks more available to rural and inner-city or lower income women. Gorell stated his opposition to the bill was to protect women from a “two tier healthcare system” where women in lower income areas would be given abortions by under-qualified medical professionals. He commented that even the “nurses association was against the bill.”

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Gorell would like to scrap the act and make specific revisions to healthcare insurance problems (although he has refused to sign a pledge to do so), which he consented that there were many of these. Brownley supports the ACA, but would like to make revisions to it: she does not agree that raising premiums and losing family doctors are permissible within the act.

Economy changes in CA: Both obviously agree that this is an issue in CA.

Brownley emphasized the importance of a women’s economic agenda, equal pay, higher minimum wage, and a higher tax on the wealthy 10%.

Gorell would like to pass a bill that will bring businesses back to California like aerospace and automobile industries. He commented that the majority should not be working minimum wage jobs and stated, “immigration reform will be an economic renaissance.”

Jeff Gorell is not a lobbyist:  Brownley has supported campaigns that claim Gorell is a lobbyist. When questioned about this ad, she said although he is not registered as a lobbyist, he has called himself one. Gorell stated, “I am not a lobbyist,” and quoted Herdt’s  article that echoed the same statement. It was awkward for everyone.

Keystone Pipeline: Gorell supports the pipeline to bring in natural resources. Brownley opposes the pipeline because, “although it will provide more resources, this will be at too great a cost to the environment.”

Gun Control: Gorell wants to focus on the mental health issues of gun holders. Brownley believes there is a need for greater gun regulation. Both support urgent action in policies regarding gun control and condemn the recent Santa Barbara shootings. (See for more information: also:

Guantanamo Bay:  Gorell supports keeping the prison open and is against bringing any of the prisoners on US soil. Brownley states that the security of US citizens is her utmost priority, even though Guantanamo is very expensive to maintain.

Universal Preschool: Brownley fully supports education reform and has fought for education reform the last four years, she supports closing the “opportunity gap” as she calls it, offering state provided preschool. Gorell also emphasizes his support for universal access to education, but would like to encourage private businesses to support early education.

Federal Minimum Wage: Brownley would like to see the federal minimum wage rise, but Gorell believes this should remain in the hands of the states.


Both candidates gave their closing statements and ended the debate with applause. This election is seen as a toss-up at this point with only three weeks left to go. Polling organizations are showing a tight race between Gorell and Brownley. caught up with the candidates after the debate: in reflection of the debate, Gorell stated, “This is an amazing tradition in American democracy…where candidates are forced to come out from behind their flyers and debate these issues and reflect more on the issues that matter to the constituents.”

Brownley told Citizens Journal, “I thought we discussed a lot. Folks can know the difference between us now. The most important thing to take from this is to vote.”

What was not said might be as significant as what was. Absent were NSA, IRS, EPA- these organizations were not brought up. Legislative-bypassing executive orders were not addressed, nor were international trade treaties, campaign finance issues, the “personhood” debate. welfare, food stamps and more. Deficits were discussed without real solutions advanced.

November 4, 2014 – make a difference and pick a player!


Kelsey Stuart is a freelance journalist in Ventura County, her home office is amongst ninja turtle action figures, toddler sippy cups and German Shepherd chew toys. She writes for multiple publications in the area and works as a social media manager for local companies. 

Shelby Baker recently graduated with a BA in Political Science Cum Laude. She has done research, humanitarian, and mission work in Brazil, Bolivia, and India. Most recently, Shelby spent two months in India researching culture, religion, and society and volunteering as an English teacher. She is pursuing a career in international justice.


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