<b>CAPITOL BOOM:</b>  The race is on for a seat in the House.
Courtesy Photo

DUBIOUS CHOICE: Would you fight for a job in an industry most Americans despise, even if it paid $174,000 a year, plus perks?

And if it meant that every aspect of your life would be held under a microscope for inspection and criticism? Your motives questioned. And what if while competing for the job, the very core of your most cherished beliefs are savaged?

Barney Brantingham

And the closet of your life is opened wide in search of skeletons, real or conjured up? And everything you say is twisted? Things you said 20 years ago under different circumstances brought up and thrown in your face.

If your very loyalty to the country you love is held up to serious, though false, doubt? You have to stick your neck out and get your character trashed.

And any divorce in the family, your children’s youthful pratfalls, your ex-spouse’s DUI, your college grades, and every aspect of your life, past or present, become fodder for debate.

And even if you get the job, it’s only good for two years, and then you must apply for another round in the boxing ring?

That, in brief, is what’s involved in running for Congress, easier for some, a battle for others. Yet since Representative Lois Capps announced her retirement last week, effective at the end of her current term, would-be candidates are letting it be known that they’re ready, willing, and able to go to Congress, no matter what it takes to get elected.

Somehow, since taking office in 1998 after the death of her husband, congressmember Walter Capps, she has survived the rough-and-tumble political wars. And now, at 77, she says she’s ready to retire from the Washington merry-go-round.

I’ve known Capps a long time and admired the fact that she carried on so cheerfully, knowing full well that so many were restlessly waiting for her to be gone, girl, gone.

Over the years, some were cool but made no bones about badly wanting her 24th District seat. Others gathered like hungry wolves, licking their chops, in the shadows beyond the campfire, awaiting their opportunity.

Now, the dam has broken (sorry about the mixed metaphors). Democrats who politely refrained from challenging a fellow party member have plunged in or are poised to.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider was first off the mark, followed promptly by Republican Justin Fareed and fellow Democrat 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

Expected to follow are City Councilmember Dale Francisco, head of the Republican Central Committee, and Republican Chris Mitchum, who came within 4 percentage points of unseating Capps last November.

Speculation is that her daughter, Laura Capps, back from Washington, D.C., will soon leap into the fray. With 18 months to go, how many more combatants will we see? It’ll be the wildest congressional campaign here in many, many years.

Whether Schneider wins or not, watch half the City Council arm wrestle to succeed her as mayor since she’s hit her term limit. Meanwhile, Schneider has her hands full.

There are her duties as mayor trying to keep order among fractious councilmembers while running for Congress and also riding herd on the late Huguette Clark’s Bellosguardo estate on East Cabrillo Boulevard, with its tax problems.

Schneider figures to have ample campaign funds at her disposal. She’s not on the Bellosguardo Foundation board, but under the New York court settlement, she appointed the majority of members, many of them wealthy heavy hitters in the social and philanthropic arenas who figure to be very helpful in a political campaign. Her campaign consultant, Jeremy Lindaman, is president of the foundation.

DAMN THE PRIMARIES: Speaking of destructo-reputation jobs, the race for the 2016 presidential election is on full-speed, and damn the innuendos.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks was in town last week and didn’t seem impressed by any of the candidates so far. He spoke at a UCSB Arts & Lectures reception at the Montecito Country Club and again at Campbell Hall, and some got the impression that he favors non-candidate Robert Gates, former CIA chief and Defense Department head. At a recent Arts & Lectures appearance here, Gates told me he’s not running for anything.

Besides, Gates carries a lot of baggage stamped IRAQ. Asked if in hindsight he thought invading Iraq 12 years ago was a good idea (count the bodies and billions), he dodged the question. Let’s wait 15 years to see how it turns out, he suggested.


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