She may be known for her svelte stature, but in terms of politics, Representative Lois Capps has considerable weight. Capps put that weight behind 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal Sunday morning when she announced she would endorse him in his race for Congress.
When 77-year-old Capps — who has represented the Central Coast’s congressional district for 17 years — announced her retirement at the end of this term, two contenders bidding for her seat, both Democrats, emerged with 24 hours: Carbajal, 50, and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, 44.
Capps has known Carbajal for two decades; he was an aide for his predecessor Naomi Schwartz, who served as county supervisor from 1993 to 2004. Similarly, Capps’s relationship with Schneider dates back to when the mayor worked at Planned Parenthood in the ‘90s. “This isn’t about being against anyone,” Capps said in a telephone interview Sunday while she and Carbajal were on their way to San Luis Obispo (SLO) to meet with supporters.
Exactly one year the before the June 2016 primaries, Capps said she “felt like this was a good time for me to make a case” for Carbajal. In the county framework, Carbajal is able to work with politicians on the other side of the aisle, Capps said, and does a thorough job of responding to constituents. “That matters a lot to me,” Capps said.
On Sunday, they were on their way to longtime environmentalist Bill Denneen’s 90th birthday party, Capps said, before returning in the afternoon to attend the Environmental Defense Center’s annual fundraiser in Goleta. On Sunday evening, they would attend the Santa Barbara County Action Network’s awards dinner.
Also along for the ride was Capps’s daughter, Laura Burton Capps, who had entertained the idea of jumping into the race in April, but decided against it, citing her 4-year old son as a key reason for her decision. Laura will join Carbajal’s campaign as an advisor.
On Sunday, Carbajal expressed appreciation for Capps’s support. “I’m extremely grateful,” he said, praising Capps for her “extraordinary” service to the Central Coast. To date, Carbajal’s endorsements have come in strong, with former state legislator and state superintendent of public instruction Jack O’Connell and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla backing him. Last Sunday, Carbajal kicked off his fundraising at a party in Montecito with some deep-pocketed Republicans included on the guest list.
When asked what we can expect to see in the first batch of campaign finance reports due at the end of the month, Carbajal would not hint at a dollar amount, but he said, “I think you will see really broad support and good momentum.” He has been spending more time in SLO, where voters make up 43 percent of the 24th Congressional District.
Schneider did not return multiple requests for comment on Sunday, but her campaign spokesperson Dave Jacobson said in an email that Schneider has “tremendous respect for Congresswoman Capps” and applauds her many years of service in Congress. “But in this new era of Washington dysfunction and relentless partisan bickering, Helene is running for Congress as a new voice who can bring fresh ideas and a bipartisan approach to a badly broken institution,” Jacobson wrote. He added Schneider has received an “outpouring of support from women, gun violence prevention, environmental and other local leaders,” noting that Election Day is still 12 months away.
Schneider has secured the endorsements of Ventura Mayor Cheryl Heitmann and Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte. One of her colleagues on the dais — City Councilmember Bendy White — has backed her. The area chapters of the international union of operating engineers and the international union of painters and allied trades district have also endorsed her.
As for the Republicans, Katcho Achadjian, 64, who has represented SLO in the State Assembly since 2010, said Sunday he had not given Capps’s endorsement much thought. “Obviously she wants to support a Democrat,” he said. “Salud must be happy about it.” Achadjian also noted he is concentrating on his duties as an Assemblymember as June is the busiest month in the State Legislature. “The first [finance reporting] quarter might not work in our favor,” he said, adding his campaign will kick into a higher gear during the recess.
Also vying for the seat, 27-year-old Justin Fareed said Capps’s endorsement of Salud is “further evidence that we will get more of the same under another name.” In an email, Fareed wrote, “Congresswoman Capps says she wants to keep this seat Blue, but as I travel this district, I have never heard one person say their priority is to keep the district ‘Blue.’ Students tell me they are unsure whether they will find a job. Central Coast ranchers and small business owners tell me they wonder how they are going to make it through another year of this drought, government overregulation and economic uncertainty.”
When asked what to expect in the first batch of finance reports, Fareed said, “You’ll see a driven candidate who is on a mission to make a difference and the support to make this race competitive.”