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Local News

Lois Capps Cascade: Retirement Announcement Opens Multiple Political Doors

Candidates are scrambling for a variety of seats representing Santa Barbara County on the heels of the nine-term congresswoman's planned departure

Rep. Lois Capps’ announcement that she will not seek re-election has opened the door for many local political seats and candidates, including, top row from left, San Luis Obispo Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, a Republican; Democrat Laura Capps, daughter of Rep. Lois Capps; Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, a Democrat; and Santa Barbara school board member Monique Limón; bottom row from left, Justin Fareed, a Republican and part-time rancher; Bill Ostrander, a San Luis Obispo farmer; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a Democrat; and 37th District Assemblyman Das Williams, a Democrat.
Rep. Lois Capps’ announcement that she will not seek re-election has opened the door for many local political seats and candidates, including, top row from left, San Luis Obispo Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, a Republican; Democrat Laura Capps, daughter of Rep. Lois Capps; Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, a Democrat; and Santa Barbara school board member Monique Limón; bottom row from left, Justin Fareed, a Republican and part-time rancher; Bill Ostrander, a San Luis Obispo farmer; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a Democrat; and 37th District Assemblyman Das Williams, a Democrat. (Courtesy photos)

When Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced early this month that she would not seek re-election after nine terms in Congress, she changed more than her own political future.

The matriarch of Democratic politics opened the door for a new generation of congressional candidates, and created a plethora of political possibilities for a variety of other seats in Santa Barbara County.

“Congresswoman Capps’ retirement changes a lot,” said Daraka Larimore-Hall, a political activist and chairman of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party. “It hasn’t been an open seat for many years, and may well be held by someone for a long time to come.

"Depending on who wins, it may open up other positions in kind of cascade effect. We’re seeing the start of that already.”

At the top of that list is the 24th Congressional District. Within hours of Capps’ retirement announcement, two candidates came forward. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a Democrat, and former Santa Barbara High School football player Justin Fareed, a Republican and part-time rancher, declared their candidacy.

Neither was a surprise. Fareed ran unsuccessfully against Capps last year, and Schneider had long been rumored to be eyeing the seat.

Schneider, who must step down as mayor in 2017 because of term limits, had three political plays after her time as mayor. Her options were First District county supervisor, a seat held by Democrat Salud Carbajal, the 37th Assembly District seat now held by Democrat Das Williams, or Congress.

Capps’ resignation comes at an opportune time for Schneider because candidates for open seats typically are more viable when they hold an existing seat somewhere.

Schneider chose Congress and, as of right now, will face Carbajal, Fareed, Republican San Luis Obispo Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, and Bill Ostrander, a San Luis Obispo farmer.

Democrat Laura Capps, Rep. Capps' daughter, was considering a run for the seat but decided on Monday not to seek the post.

She has a 4-year-old son, and the grind of weekly flights from Santa Barbara to Washington, D.C., was a factor in her decision.

Her name could have been her biggest asset and her biggest weakness. Some people would have voted for her because she is Capps’ daughter, while others most likely would have opposed her for the same reason.

A Capps run would have complicated matters for Democrats Schneider and Carbajal, who have both held local office for more than a decade. Carbajal is giving up a re-election bid to run for Congress, and Schneider would have to leave her mayoral seat a year early if she wins the seat. 

All of the Santa Barbara office holders will have some level of difficulty reaching voters in northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, where Achadjian is more well-known and very popular. 

It’s an open primary, so regardless of political affiliation, the top two finishers in June will compete against each other in November 2016.

Carbajal’s decision to run for Congress opens the door for others to vie for his seat. He was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2004, groomed to replace Naomi Schwartz after serving as her chief of staff. 

Williams, the assemblyman for the 37th District and a former Santa Barbara city councilman, has already announced that he will run for the Carbajal’s seat.

Williams must step down from the Assembly at the end of 2016 because of term limits, and the supervisor seat presents a viable option for him to continue his political service. It would be an open seat, and he likely won’t have to compete with a Democrat who has as much name recognition as he has.

A run for Congress was never really in the cards, either. Williams said he wants to start a family locally and is more connected in California than on the national stage. Williams would not run for the 19th State Senate District while Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson holds the seat, and she already filed a "statement of intention" to run for re-election next year. 

Monique Limón, a member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education, is running for Williams' Assembly seat.

Limón has not formally announced, but is actively working to line up endorsements and raise money. She has also aligned herself with Carbajal in somewhat of an informal ticket.

“My experience working in the community and on the school board have given me firsthand knowledge about the pivotal role the state plays shaping the future of education, families, our environment and workforce, all issues that are deeply important to me,” she told Noozhawk.

Williams and Limón will likely face challengers, but none has announced yet. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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.

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina

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