The state Republican Party has declined to endorse either Chris Mitchum or Abel Maldonado in the battle to capture the congressional seat now held by Rep. Lois Capps, a Santa Barbara Democrat.
The state party decision Sunday to remain neutral followed a vote Saturday by Santa Barbara County Republicans to recommend Mitchum for the post, rather than Maldonado.
The state did not take a stance, said Greg Gandrud, the GOPs Santa Barbara County chairman and its regional vice chairman for the Central Coast. He said the state GOP chose to let the voters decide the outcome.
Republicans from Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties also did not make a recommendation.
The local congressional election mirrors the national rift in the Republican Party, best exemplified by the battle for the Republican nomination for president, where Mitt Romney, a moderate, is trying to fend off conservatives Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
Mitchum positions himself as a Tea Party Republican. Maldonado has a long career in public office, ranging from Santa Maria mayor to lieutenant governor. He has positioned himself as a moderate, and he angered many conservatives in 2009 when he swung a deal with Democrats in the Legislature to pass the $41 billion state budget. Maldonado cast the deciding vote to pass the budget.
Under new voting procedures in California, the top two finishers in the June 5 primary will go on to November in a runoff. Political observers generally agree that Capps, unopposed by other Democrats, will be one of the two. The question has been which Republican will go up against her.
Independent Matt Boutte of San Luis Obispo also is on the ballot.
The weekend news was more encouraging for two other Republicans running for office Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who is seeking re-election, and Larry Beaman, who wants to replace Republican Sam Blakeslee, who is retiring, in the state Senate.
The state GOP endorsed both men. Achadjian, seeking his second term, is a former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor. He will face Democrat Gerald Manata.
Beaman, a Scotts Valley school board member, will be opposed by Democrat Assemblyman Bill Monning of Carmel.