Gorell expects deployment to Afghanistan
Oct 30, 2010 (Ventura County Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Jeff Gorell, Republican candidate in the 37th Assembly District, announced Saturday that he expects to be deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Navy Reserve in March, and would be unable to serve in Sacramento for 12 months, or half of the two-year term he is seeking.
Gorell said he has known about the impending deployment for a couple of weeks, but had been unable to publicly disclose it until receiving permission from the Navy to do so.
"I'm obviously still a candidate. I'm still asking people to vote for me," he said, noting that he would be able to write and introduce bills before leaving and to hire a staff to handle constituent services in his absence. He said his wife, Laura, would represent him at community events.
Gorell said he felt it important to make the news public before Tuesday's election. "I worked with the Navy to push this announcement before the election," he said. "There are three or four days for constituents to absorb this, but I think it's important that they have an opportunity to consider it."
Although it is not uncommon for sitting legislators who are reservists to be mobilized, no California lawmaker has been called into duty since World War II. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported last year that 31 had received foreign deployments since 2003.
Democratic opponent Ferial Masry said she believes Gorell should consider asking voters not to support him this time around in light of his imminent deployment. "He could say, 'I can't serve now. When I come back I will run again.' You cannot leave the district without representation for a year. It's honorable what he's doing, but the district has to be represented, too."
Masry, whose son served in the Iraq war, said she understands the responsibilities of military service. The decision whether to continue with his campaign, she said, should be entirely left to Gorell. "I have tremendous respect for him and his choices. I understand the situation he's going through, and I understand the impact on his family."
Gorell, 39, lives in Camarillo and has two young children.
The 37th District, now represented by Audra Strickland, who is forced out by term limits, includes Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Ojai and much of Simi Valley.
For Gorell, a lieutenant commander, this is the second time reserve duty has interrupted his political plans. He had announced his intention to run for the Assembly in the 35th District in 2002, but had to abandon those plans after being called to duty in Afghanistan
The son of a career Navy officer, Gorell has been a reservist for nearly 12 years. He could have resigned his commission before launching his campaign, but said he could not do so now with a deployment pending unless granted an exemption from the secretary of the Navy.
"I have campaigned telling people I was an active reservist," he said. "I've always been proactive in talking about it."
Gorell noted that, if elected, he would not receive his legislator's salary and benefits for the duration of his deployment. State law specifies that anyone called to military duty has a right to return and re-enter elected office as long as the term to which he was elected has not expired. The relevant state law also contemplates the temporary appointment of a replacement, but lawmakers have never followed up and adopted a law governing how such an appointment would be made.
Under the state's term limit law, no person is eligible to serve more than three terms, or six years, in the Assembly. If elected, that means that Gorell would miss out on more than 15 percent of the time in which he would be eligible to serve.
"To proponents of term-limit reform, I could end up being the poster child," Gorell said.
His mobilization orders require him to report for active duty on March 18.
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