After a tough race and rigorous campaign, Rep. Lois Capps celebrated victory Tuesday night surrounded by family and supporters, savoring a win that will allow her to begin her ninth term in Congress.

The incumbent held off a strong challenge from Republican Chris Mitchum for the 24th Congressional District seat, with 51.6 percent of the vote across Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and parts of Ventura Counties. 

Mitchum trailed in the race at 48.4 percent, a difference of less than 5,000 votes, a close contest for Capps, who has been a fixture in the seat for the past 16 years.

Capps was surrounded by family and supporters at SoHo Restaurant and Bar on State Street, which was filled with a celebratory spirit as she thanked her campaign team.

As she spoke about her victory, Capps said that challenges waiting in Washington upon her return from the Central Coast are “enormous.”

“We are celebrating tonight, and yet we are so aware, this is tough place to be in the United States of America,” she told the crowd.

Republican Chris Mitchum joined supporters at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Barbara. Despite a strong showing, he wasn’t able to unseat Rep. Lois Capps for the 24th District congressional post. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Capps will be returning to Washington in the wake of some serious losses for the Democratic party.

On Tuesday,  Republicans gained control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years, unseating some key players in democratic strongholds,

“We’ve had some setbacks this evening,” she said. “We’re going to redouble our efforts.”

Some of those efforts important to Capps are making college more affordable, continuing to watch the Affordable Care Act proceed in the state, making Medicare solvent, and ensuring that Social Security is there for a younger generation, she said.

“It’s a tall order… We can do it when we put our hearts together,” she said.

Capps has held the office for the past 16 years, and  Mitchum, a Republican and former actor, ran unsuccessfully against her in 2012.

Capps outspent Mitchum by a large margin, and numbers from last week showed that she had raised more than $2 million in her re-election effort.

Noozhawk reported last week that Mitchum had loaned himself more money than he’s raised, with $149,000 in contributions and $212,000 in loans, but had received support from state and national-level Republican players.

Earlier in the evening on Tuesday, Mitchum told Noozhawk that he was disappointed that Capps would not accept a debate invitation during her campaign.

Mitchum, who was watching returns come in at the Fess Parker Doubletree Hotel with his campaign staff and supporters, also said that Republicans had seen huge gains on the national level, even if he himself had not been one of them.

“It’s because the country’s going in the wrong direction,” he said, adding that unemployment is still high, and that locally the effects are being felt, with many vacant storefronts on State Street.

“Eight years ago, you didn’t see that,” he said.

Capps officials admitted that the race was a tough one, and said they’d taken a grassroots campaign approach, with Capps making a dizzying number of public appearances in the weeks before the election.

On Tuesday, the day had begun for campaign staff at 5 a.m. in Isla Vista, where they spent hours canvassing and distributing door hangers, extra effort that paid off for Capps in the long run.

This year brought about a closer race with lower turnout expected, and the number of registered voters more balanced between Democrats and Republicans in the district.

California Congressional districts were redrawn in 2010, making Capps’ once mostly-coastal district expand to include all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, and a small portion of Ventura County.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.