Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 10:27 pm | Fair 52º


Clark Vandeventer Sees Opportunity in Challenge to Capps

Republican to declare congressional candidacy with focus on jobs, fiscal accountability

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has served six terms in Congress in what appears to be an increasingly safe district for her. She’s typically not on the political radar when it comes to vulnerable incumbents but then 2010 isn’t shaping up to be a typical election year. In fact, some political analysts say that if a little-known Republican can win the Senate seat held for decades by the Kennedy family’s Democratic dynasty in Massachusetts, well, anything can happen.

Clark Vandeventer
Clark Vandeventer

Goleta resident Clark Vandeventer is counting on just such a scenario as he announces his candidacy for Congress on Monday afternoon. He is the third Republican to enter the June 8 primary race for the chance to challenge Capps, who was elected in 1998 to fill the seat held by her late husband, Rep. Walter Capps, who died in office.

Vandeventer, who turns 30 this week, graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University and moved to Santa Barbara for a job at the Reagan Ranch Center, where he worked for eight years. For the last two years, he’s been working as chief executive officer for World Changers Inc., a strategic planning consulting firm for nonprofit organizations, and formed The Vandeventer Group.

He’s long been interested in public policy and has considered joining the race for months. He meant to make a decision by the end of last year, but only just decided a few weeks ago. His wife, Monica, and several others have long been telling him to go for it.

“A switch went off and I wanted it,” he told Noozhawk.

Although he will officially announce his candidacy Monday, he has already hit the campaign trail running.

He’s hired The Prosper Group, the telephone and online campaign firm whose most famous client is new Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. Vandeventer is hoping for the same success Brown had in winning a historically Democratic legislative seat.

The 23rd Congressional District encompasses a 200-mile-long strip of coastline in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and is one of the narrowest in the country. Democrats maintain a comfortable edge in voter registration.

Vandeventer blames safe districts as one of the causes of gridlock in Washington, since lawmakers “don’t have to be nimble.”

He also calls President Barack Obama “too liberal” to get consensus and hopes to be a representative focused on creating jobs rather than more gridlock.

“We’ve gotten wildly off track,” he said.

He believes Capps — and other members of government — have become disconnected from their constituents, and vows to be a different type of politician.

Candidate accessibility is a big issue for him, and he has the Foursquare social-networking app on his phone, “checking in” at various times during the day to tell his Facebook followers what he’s up to.

Vandeventer, who, if elected, would be one of the youngest lawmakers in the House of Representatives, wants Congress to implement more technology, such as Citrix Online’s GoToMeeting, to allow representatives to work more from their districts and be more connected with their communities.

“You shouldn’t always have to be on the House floor to vote,” he said.

People tell him he doesn’t look like Washington, D.C., which he takes as a compliment.

“Wouldn’t you like someone in Washington to look more like Santa Barbara?” he asked.

Fiscal responsibility and job creation are big priorities for him, and developing a more business-friendly environment through lowering corporate taxes and pursuing oil and gas reserves is the key, he said.

Capps is “part of this vicious cycle that is sucking the life out of our economy and country,” he said in a statement announcing his candidacy last week.

Vandeventer sees the health-care debate as a turning point for Capps from which she hasn’t recovered, as she was criticized by some of her constituents for not being more vocal about the issue last summer and fall.

Several town-hall meetings and forums were held locally, including one sponsored and moderated by Vandeventer, and Capps held informational sessions throughout the district.

The father of two young children said he wouldn’t run if he didn’t think he had a chance of winning, and believes the public has become frustrated enough to look to someone else.

“If there’s ever a chance,” he said, “this is it.”

Capps, 72, has represented the Central Coast for 12 years and was re-elected in 2008 with 68 percent of the vote after winning two previous two-year terms with more than 60 percent of ballots cast. She sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on health and the House Science and Technology Committee’s subcommittee on energy and environment.

As of Dec. 31, Capps has raised $424,695, spent about $318,000 and has $462,000 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. Capps and her campaign office could not be reached for comment for this story.

Vandeventer expects to raise $1.5 million to be competitive. Republicans John Davidson of Thousand Oaks and David Stockdale of Santa Maria have also filed intent-to-run papers. They both own and operate insurance companies.

Stockdale has raised $9,302 so far and spent $615. The FEC doesn’t have records for Davidson’s fundraising.

Vandeventer will announce his candidacy at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Paseo Nuevo.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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