Summerland resident Tom Watson is taking the 23rd District congressional race personally.

Tom Watson

Tom Watson

He will formally announce his candidacy at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Rose Garden at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara, becoming the fourth Republican to challenge Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, for the next term.

Watson, a retired Navy pilot and successful entrepreneur, worked for IBM and helped create a Los Angeles-based startup technology company before joining Agile RF Inc., a Goleta company that designs and manufactures next-generation wireless components.

He married late in life, and he credits his 2-year-old son as a main reason for running.

“I’ve never been this worried about the future of our country,” he told Noozhawk ahead of Thursday’s announcement.

He said has a big problem with the federal government’s spending habits, and he decries passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the proposed health-care bill.

He said single-payer options will lead to rationing and a lack of cost sensitivity at the point of purchase.

“A universal health-care system is a bad idea,” he said. “It has failed everywhere it’s tried.”

Watson added that the threat of increased health costs and regulations hinder California businesses as well.

“You don’t take on debt and risk if you don’t know what the environment is going to be,” he said.

He said his solutions are to do more than stop spending. He wants to reduce budget spending to 2007 levels and “under no circumstances raise taxes.”

While California used to top national lists and draw people from all over the world, Watson said businesses — and others — are being driven out by its policies.

In such fiscal difficulties, he believes Californians should at least have an open mind to the possibility of onshore or offshore oil and gas drilling for additional revenues and local jobs.

Watson opposes Assembly Bill 32, saying it’s wrong for government to be “subsidizing inefficient forms of energy to make ourselves feel better.”

His campaign launch is being lauded by the Santa Barbara Tea Party & Culpepper Society. He has begun fundraising, though he says he’ll “never be able to outspend” Capps.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at