Just as left-leaning candidate Bernie Sanders has in the campaign for President, Helene Schneider called for debates to happen more often and sooner in the race to replace Congressmember Lois Capps. On Thursday, the Santa Barbara mayor called on all candidates — Democrats and Republicans — to participate in a series of 10 debates 11 months before the primary election.
“This is the first time the seat is really open in 20 years if you count Walter Capps’s [term],” Schneider said. “And it’s an open primary.” Lois Capps has represented the 24th District — which includes Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, and a sliver of Ventura County — for nearly nine terms. In 1998, she won a special election to succeed her husband, who died shortly after entering office the year prior.
Campaign analysts say calling for more debates is a strategy that gives candidates exposure without spending advertising funds. What’s more, if a candidate proposes several debates and the others do not whole-heartedly comply, the challenger can be openly disappointed that voters could not collectively engage in the opportunity to talk about the issues.
When asked why 10 is the magic number, Schneider said the district is vast and diverse. “The City of Santa Barbara is different than Paso Robles,” she said. She said she wants to work with the other candidates to figure out a schedule that is best for everyone.
Schneider’s Democratic opponent, Supervisor Salud Carbajal, is not quite as eager to get the series started. “There’s going to be plenty of time for debate,” he said. He would not indicate exactly when the right date would be. “Right now, I am focusing on meeting with many people throughout the Central Coast,” he said.
Often a candidate facing an incumbent will push for more debates. Last November, Republican Chris Mitchum expressed disappointment on election night that Capps did not have the “courage” to debate him during the campaign season.
Republican candidate Justin Fareed said Friday he had not seen Schneider’s press release but would welcome the chance to debate. “I think it is an excellent opportunity to see democracy at its finest,” he said. A call to Republican candidate Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian was not immediately returned on Friday.