Having just returned from the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, says she is “excited” at the prospect of getting down to work as the campaign season heats up.

“I’m so excited because I’ve been really discouraged about the way our nation has been governed and about things that have happened in every area the federal government has been involved in,” she said.

Amid the bustle and spectacle of the convention, she said, there was a lot of work going on to unify the Democratic Party, including healing the rift between those who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton and presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

“It’s really painful not to be able to choose her for a presidential candidate,” said Capps, who was supported by Hillary Clinton and her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in her 1998 race against Tom Bordonaro. As a superdelegate, however, she chose Obama in the primary, as did her district.

There are still strong feelings to get over about the hotly contested race for the nomination, but if there’s one thing the convention did, Capps says, it united the party.

It’s that unity that energizes Capps as she gets down to the business of getting re-elected. Many of the policies outlined by Obama in his Thursday acceptance speech resonate with the goals she has for her district, including an energy policy that prioritizes renewable and sustainable energy over expanded offshore oil drilling.

“We were following (the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hearing on offshore drilling) very closely from Denver,” she said. The 3-2 vote “came as no surprise,” given the political breakdown of the board.

“But renewable energy, that’s what needs to be front and center of how we talk about energy,” Capps said.

As for other elements of Obama’s campaign that could reinforce and be reinforced by her run for Congress, they include plans for the economy, health care, education, the nation’s debt and an end to the war in Iraq.

“I’ve never had the privilege of representing my district in a government where there’s compatibility within the two branches of government that have to do with policy and making change,” she said. She will celebrate the opening of her campaign headquarters next weekend, where her efforts will coordinate with those of the other Democratic candidates for office, including former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is running for the state Senate, Doreen Farr, a candidate for 3rd District supervisor, and, of course, Obama’s presidential run.

Obama’s success at the convention notwithstanding, he faces a tough campaign. Capps’ road to re-election, in comparison, will be relatively easy, as her seat is said by many to be a safe one this time around. The work still will need to be done, she said: the precinct-walking, the door-knocking, the grassroots effort that also are elements of the Obama campaign.

“I’ll be going to college campuses and working with the young people,” she said. “We will certainly coordinate with the Obama campaign.”

As to the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice president on the Republican ticket, Capps said, “I congratulate her on her nomination.”

From Palin’s voting record, Capps said, Palin seems to be ultra-conservative.

Sen. (John) McCain is choosing someone really just like him,” she said, adding that it was “more of the same of the Bush years.” However, Sen. Joe Biden, Capps said, would provide contrast and even argument to the Obama administration.

With respect to the ongoing redistricting initiative on the ballot, Capps is “not opposed to it in principle,” but is concerned that under the guidelines of the redistricting initiative, the net effect would be that minority districts would be broken down. Almost half of the constituents in Capps’ gerrymandered 23rd District are Hispanic, a population Capps said could lose their political voice if redistricting lines split them up.

For the moment, redistricting isn’t a major concern for Capps, as the initiative deals with state legislative redistricting.

“The implication is that the format, if adopted, would dictate how the redistricting will occur to in the congressional races down the road,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at sfernandez@noozhawk.com.