2017-05-18 / Front Page

Actor Sabato to run against Julia Brownley

45-year-old Republican a supporter of Donald Trump
By Dawn Megli-Thuna

Sabato Sabato Will Rogers, Sonny Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now Antonio Sabato Jr. has taken the first step to add his name to the list of entertainers-turned-politicians in the Golden State.

The former soap opera star and underwear model announced last week that he intends to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Thousand Oaks) for her seat in the House of Representatives in 2018.

Sabato filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission May 8, launching his candidacy to represent the 26th Congressional District, which includes most of Ventura County and the City of Westlake Village.

The 45-year-old told The Acorn he decided to run because of what he called Brownley’s mediocre performance during her three terms in office.

“She should be thanking me for getting her name out there,” he said. “One hundred percent of the people I talk to don’t know who she is.”

Sabato, a Thousand Oaks resident, said he is a conservative Christian who is pro-business, pro-law enforcement and pro-agriculture. A political newcomer, the actor stepped onto the political stage with a speech at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. A staunch Trump supporter, he won national attention for saying he “absolutely” believes President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

“People complain about what’s going in government and nobody does something about it,” he said. “You live once. I feel it’s my time to make something happen.”

To make that happen, he’ll have to swing the district from blue back to red.

Before redistricting in 2010 took out most of Simi Valley and added Oxnard, the 26th Congressional District was safely in Republican hands. Since redistricting, Brownley has been elected three times.

Brownley defeated her last competitor, Rafael Dagnesses, by more than 20 points in the 2016 election after narrowly defending her seat against Jeff Gorell by a single-digit margin in 2014.

Brownley’s senior adviser, Lenny Young, said the incumbent is confident her track record— which includes an expansion of the Veterans Affairs clinic in Oxnard and increasing funding for the Port of Hueneme—will win over voters.

“Elections are about ideas and hard work on behalf of constituents,” Young said. “Ventura County wants a thoughtful leader who will fight for families and better paying jobs, not someone who will echo President Trump’s extreme agenda.”

But before Sabato can face off against Brownley, he’ll have to beat out other primary opponents.

Shane Skelton, a Thousand Oaks corporate consultant and former Congressional staffer to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ohio Congressman Bob Latta, has also announced his candidacy for the house seat.

Herb Gooch, a political science professor from Cal Lutheran University, said moving from “Melrose Place” to inside the beltway may be a tough role for a political newcomer like Sabato, who first rose to fame on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Even with name recognition, he’d likely have an uphill battle to secure funding from the county and state Republican parties.

“Julia is not only the incumbent, this will be her fourth race,” Gooch said. “It’s pretty hard to see anybody beating her. Republicans don’t have a real personality that’s known in the area.”

Sabato’s ardent support of Trump and his policies may prove to be a liability, Gooch said. Just this week the actor’s official Twitter account directed a tweet to Trump’s personal account saying, “You are doing Amazing Mr. President, you need anything I am here for you Pal. #draintheswamp.”

Mike Osborn, chairman of the Ventura County Republican Central Committee, said GOP voters turn out reliably in non-presidential elections, making Brownley’s seat more vulnerable than it was during the 2016 election.

“It looks like Antonio has the inside track,” Osborn said. “He gave a speech on national issues at the RNC. He’s got good credentials.”

His newly minted candidacy isn’t the only reason the actor has been in the headlines. He filed for divorce from his wife, Cheryl Nunes, in December. And on Monday news broke that his estranged spouse is seeking sole custody of their child, claiming he still abuses prescription anxiety medication.

Sabato has been public about receiving treatment for prescription drug abuse in the past. He said battling addiction—particularly Ventura County’s heroin epidemic— would be a major priority for him in office.

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