Abel Maldonado celebrated his birthday Tuesday with Speaker of the House John Boehner, who was in Santa Barbara for a Maldonado fundraiser.
The event, held at a Hope Ranch residence and chaired by vintners Geoff and Alison Rusack, was closed to the media, and Boehner did not participate in any public events while in town. But his presence is a sign of Republican support rallying around Maldonado, despite a stumble out of the starting blocks for the former lieutenant governor, who turned 45 Tuesday, with members of the GOP claiming Maldonado is a Republican in name only, many noting his 2009 tax vote while a member of the State Legislature.
Boehner’s visit Tuesday also allowed Representative Lois Capps, facing her stiffest competition since taking office in 1998, to tie Maldonado to people whom she called “extreme politicians” in Washington, D.C., waging a war on women’s rights. Mentioned was Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, whose comments on rape over the weekend caused a stir and led many, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to suggest Akin drop out of his Senate race. Maldonado called Akin’s statements “outrageous, offensive, and flat-out ignorant,” while Capps also condemned Akin’s claim that female victims of “legitimate rape” have the ability to passively prevent their own pregnancy.
Capps staffers passed out pink fliers with Maldonado’s photo on it that read “NOT PRO CHOICE,” while she and others spoke in front of the Planned Parenthood offices off Haley Street about some of Maldonato’s stances. “I will always protect a woman’s right to choose,” Capps said, detailing how the Republicans’ quest to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood would attack an “organization that plays a very vital role in our community.” From routine health exams and breast cancer and cervical screenings to HIV testing, “they provide basic care for men, for women, and for their families,” she said. Boehner, other speakers said, wants to pick up another right-wing vote in Maldonado.
Off to the side of the press conference, Maldonado spokesperson Kurt Bardella looked on. After the press conference, Bardella said Maldonado has struggled with the issue of abortion his whole life. Maldonado believes Congress needs to work to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and he would oppose efforts to weaken Roe v. Wade and would support health care for women, Bardella said.
Last week, the Capps campaign held another press conference, taking a different route to attack Maldonado and his ongoing dispute with the IRS over what could total up to $4.2 million in tax deductions reported by the family’s farming business. The Capps campaign rolled out several college students who rely on Pell Grants — federal need-based grants for low-income undergraduate and some graduate students to attend college — as well as a City College professor, UCSB professor, and City College Trustee and former Santa Barbara mayor Marty Blum; the group equated the $4.2-million amount as enough to potentially fund 760 Pell Grants.
While the connection was perhaps a bit of a stretch, more interesting is that, while the battle over Medicare rages on, Democrats are trying to push the idea that Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget plan has become the de facto Republican plan, and under that plan, Pell Grants would take a major hit. Maldonado said at a forum in San Luis Obispo last week that he would have voted against Ryan’s budget if he had been a member of Congress. (Capps did vote against it.) If that had been the case, Maldonado would have been the only House Republican to do so.
Bardella, in response to last week’s City College press conference, noted several failed energy projects subsidized by federal tax credits and grants. “Solyndra was a $535-million boondoggle that went bankrupt,” he said, going on to note several other bankrupt investments. “How many Pell Grants would that money have generated?”
At the Tuesday Capps event, Bardella was armed with a chart, detailing many of the projects subsidized by the federal government, like the infamous Solyndra solar facility in Fremont, a facility which went bankrupt after receiving more than $500 million in federal loans. Maldonado’s team questioned Capps’s recent votes against the “No More Solyndras Act” at a House committee and subcommittee level. Capps sided with Democratic members of both the committee and subcommittee against the act, which would effectively end the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.
Capps said Tuesday the Solyndra investment was a mistake, but on the other hand, in a quest to become energy self-sufficient, society needs to take risks on companies working on new energy, like solar. “It is very much a part of what we do here,” she said. For every success, there are many failures along the way.”
The newly drawn 24th Congressional District — which encompasses all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as a tiny part of Ventura County — eliminated Capps’s comfortable hold on her district, with a Democratic advantage in voter registration sitting at 3 or so percent. A recent poll from Maldonado’s camp showed the former Santa Maria mayor within two points of Capps. Boehner’s presence in Santa Barbara reinforced just how close of a race Republicans think this can be as they look to pick up another California House seat.