Back in February, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the road back to a Democratic House majority runs through California. That plan for Democrats includes holding onto a seat here, where, for the first time since Rep. Lois Capps originally ran for Congress 14 years ago, she faces her first real battle to hold onto her seat. And with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare along with the House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, it was a big week of news and an opportunity for both Capps and her opponent, former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado, to get their voices out to voters.

Capps, in a statement after the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled Obamacare’s individual mandate is constitutional, said she was pleased with the decision and said it “ensures we can build on the progress already underway to fix our broken health care system, and that those Central Coast families and small businesses currently benefiting from the law can continue to do so.” Maldonado, on the other hand, fell in lockstep with the Republican message, calling the Affordable Healthcare Act a “big tax on millions of middle-class American families and seniors.” He said he supports a repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

What difference the ruling makes in this election remains to be seen, but that didn’t stop the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from jumping into the fray this week with a modest $43,000 cable ad buy on the heels of the high court’s decision, targeting Capps and two other members of Congress. The ad portrays two family members texting, with one wondering if Obamacare can be repealed. “Can our Congresswoman do it?” she asks. The other texter responds with, “HA! Capps wants to keep the whole %^#* thing.” Her sister then asks, “Can we repeal Capps????” The response: “November 6th :)”

“This is an important race,” said Daniel Scarpinato, NRCC western regional press secretary, who said it is a goal of the party to hold Capps accountable for her vote, and the ad buy is an indication of how seriously they are taking the race. The ad is set to run July 3-9.

The ad buy is undoubtedly a sign of things to come as both campaigns ramp up and the eyes of Washington, D.C., focus on California’s newly drawn 24th District, which encompasses all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, as well as part of Ventura County.

The Capps campaign is clearly not oblivious to how tough an opponent they face, sending email blasts chastising Maldonado, or frequently pointing out where others have criticized their opponent. The topic of choice for Jeff Millman, Capps’s campaign spokesperson, is Maldonado’s trouble with the IRS. Maldonado is currently disputing what could total up to $4.2 million in tax deductions reported by the family’s farming business – which Maldonado has one-third interest in.

Most recently, the Capps camp was happy to point out that Maldonado didn’t get enough votes from the Santa Barbara County Republican Central Committee on June 20 to secure a formal endorsement from the local party. The Central Coast Freedom Rallies, which touts itself as the “the largest Tea Party group in the North County” sent a press release last week explaining that Maldonado had failed to get the endorsement of the Central Committee.

The discussion at the meeting, according to the press release sent out by Dianne Howes of Freedom Rallies, “left a deep rift between many committee members, highlighting the differences between party loyalists who want party unity going into a difficult election and party conservatives who felt Maldonado’s positions do not reflect Republican standards.”

But Greg Gandrud, chair of the Central Committee, downplayed the vote and said he was confident the endorsement would happen at the group’s July meeting. Maldonado was part of a slate that included presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Emken. A number of committee voters were absent, Gandrud explained, and some others were waiting for the Secretary of State to certify the primary results. “There will be another bite at the apple,” he said. Whatever the circumstances, it didn’t look great for Maldonado, and the Capps campaign seized the opportunity to get a dig in on Maldonado with Millman calling it a “stunning snub.”

Maldonado’s team, on the other hand, took the opportunity to chide Capps for sending out an email blast about Maldonado’s “special guest” at a fundraiser in Shell Beach Friday. While Capps’s team speculated it would be former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the visitor was actually Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian.

The fundraiser came the day before the deadline for the latest round of campaign finance reporting. The numbers — which will be released in the coming days — will give some insight into where the candidates sit since it’s the first after the June 5 primary and comes as both sides are once again ramping up for the November general election.


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