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Rep. Lois Capps Announces Retirement From Congress

Nine-term congresswoman's decision opens way for jockeying by Democratic and GOP candidates

Rep. Lois Capps, celebrating with family and friends, was all smiles on election night last November as she won a ninth term in Congress. She announced Wednesday that she was retiring after this term.
Rep. Lois Capps, celebrating with family and friends, was all smiles on election night last November as she won a ninth term in Congress. She announced Wednesday that she was retiring after this term. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Rep. Lois Capps

Confirming what has been rumored for months, Rep. Lois Capps on Wednesday announced that she will not seek re-election to her 24th Congressional District seat when her term expires in 2016.

Capps, 77, is a Democrat who has served nine terms in Congress since being elected in 1998 to fill the seat held by her husband, Walter Capps, following his death the previous year.

"I’m proud of the work that we’ve done together here on the Central Coast — to improve education, to expand health care, to support businesses and our veterans, to protect the environment and agriculture," Capps said in a statement posted on her website. "And I have been so humbled and honored that you would trust me to be your Representative to Congress.

"But now I believe it is time for me to return home back to the community and family that I love so much. And so I am announcing that this 114th Congress will be my last, and at the completion of this term I will retire."

[Scroll down to see video of Capps' statement]

By making her retirement official, Capps undoubtedly will jump-start the jockeying in both major political parties to replace her.

Already, four people have announced their intention to run for Capps' seat.

Republican Justin Fareed announced his plans Wednesday afternoon.

The businessman and rancher, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the seat in 2014, said he already has raised $100,000 to support his campaign.

Other possible GOP candidates who have been mentioned include Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who lives in San Luis Obispo County, and Santa Barbara Councilman Dale Francisco, who also made an unsuccessful run last year.

"I haven't decided anything about that," Francisco told Noozhawk. "There are a lot of things to consider there."

Possible Democratic candidates frequently mentioned include Salud Carbajal, First District Santa Barbara County supervisor; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider; and Capps' daughter, Laura Burton Capps, a well-connected political operative who recently relocated to Santa Barbara from Washington, D.C.

Schneider also sent out an email Wednesday announcing that she intended to run.

"“I am running for Congress to get things done in Washington," Schneider said in her email. "We need more common sense and fewer political stalemates."

Burton Capps declined to discuss a possible candidacy, saying, "Today is about my amazing mom and all the work she's done."

Carbajal has stated on his website that he is running, but has not sent out a formal announcement.

Bill Ostrander, 55, a San Luis Obispo resident and farmer, had previously announced he would seek the seat as a Democrat.

Achadjian could not be reached for comment.

"The 24th District has been competitive for multiple cycles and instantly becomes a more likely pick up opportunity for Republicans in 2016 with Lois Capps’ retirement,” said Zach Hunter, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congessional Committee, in a statement emailed Wednesday.

The district, which includes all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and part of western Ventura County, has been in Democratic hands for two decades.

While registration favors the Democrats — 43 percent to 28 percent — the margin has narrowed with recent redistricting, and nearly a quarter of registered voters are not affiliated with either party.

The district is considered potentially more competitive than many others in the state.

Capps won a surprisingly close race in 2014 against Chris Mitchum, taking 51.9 percent of the vote to 48.1 for her opponent.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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