In crowded race, candidates vying for 24th congressional district seat outline views

Hopefuls try to appeal to a more politically diverse voter base in newly redrawn district

mfountain@thetribunenews.comApril 19, 2014 

For the first time since the 24th Congressional District was redrawn in 2010 and California adopted the open primary system in 2012, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Lois Capps has almost too many challengers to count with two hands.

Capps is seeking her ninth full term in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight challengers are hoping that voters in the new politically diverse district will look for a new representative in Washington, D.C.

The two candidates winning the most votes in the June 3 primary — whether Democrat, Republican or independent — will face off in the Nov. 4 general election.

Capps, 76, was first elected to the House in a 1998 special election after husband Walter Capps died just nine months into his term. Since then, she has been active in matters of energy, health and the environment, sitting on a number of committees and subcommittees.

As of January, she had more than $950,000 in campaign funds, mostly from the healthcare industry, public sector unions and Democratic political action committees.

The 24th district — redrawn by a special commission of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents in 2010 — is more politically diverse than it once was. The district’s registered voters are 38 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 22 percent decline-to-state, and about 5 percent other parties.

Capps will face two Democratic challengers, five Republicans and an Independent.

Democrat Paul Coyne

Coyne, 50, is a banker and former teacher and Army reservist from Orcutt. Coyne is running on a pro-business platform of small business deregulation and obtaining more federal funding for local infrastructure projects and clean energy industries.

“I think a rich diverse community deserves someone well-rounded,” Coyne said. “I will be the first to say our current representative doesn’t reflect us.” Since last April, Coyne has also raised—and spent—over $60,000, including more than $50,000 of his own money.

Democrat Sandra Marshall

Marshall, 62, of San Luis Obispo, is publisher of the Information Press and chair of the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo. She’s running on a pro-environment platform with a focus on campaign finance reform. She is not seeking campaign donations.

“I’m running without the money, without the connections,” Marshall said. “I have the energy, I walk the talk and I will always show up.”

Independent Steve Isakson

Isakson, 62, is an Atascadero resident and chief engineer at the Los Osos-based Rantec Power Systems. Isakson said he entered the race because he’s dissatisfied with partisanship in Congress and wants to be a consensus-builder.

“The only thing I can believe in is being independent,” Isakson said. “This is one of the better districts where somebody from the middle can represent everyone in the district.”

Republican Chris Mitchum

Among the five Republicans, Mitchum, 70, of Santa Barbara, said he is the “true” conservative. A Tea Party conservative and former director of the Screen Actors Guild, Mitchum said he wants to tap the state’s oil reserves.

“We have enough oil here in Santa Barbara County, we don’t even need to do the Monterey Shale thing, and in six years, we can be energy independent,” Mitchum said. “That will create jobs, and we’re not just talking about oil jobs. It will affect absolutely every phase of our economy.”

Republican Justin Fareed

Fareed, 25, of Santa Barbara, has raised the second most of any candidate, some $109,000 as of January, including $50,000 of self-financing. Fareed, a rancher and vice president of his family’s Santa Barbara-based ProBand Sports International, Inc., is a former aide to Kentucky Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield.

Fareed is running as a pro-business fiscal conservative.

Republican Dale Francisco

A second-term Santa Barbara City Councilman, Francisco, 60, is a former software engineer with Cisco Systems. He said he is most concerned about reducing the federal spending and the deficit, and passing a balanced budget amendment. He said that, as a councilman, he helped Santa Barbara eliminate and consolidate employee positions, renegotiate city contracts, and start to rebuild the city’s fiscal reserves.

“And we did it while still keeping the best levels of service,” Francisco said. “I don’t think Washington, D.C. is any different.”

Republican Bradley Allen

A Santa Barbara pediatric surgeon, Allen, 59, is the former surgical director at the Children’s Heart Institute in Houston. He said he will focus on job creation and healthcare issues, specifically the Affordable Care Act, which he believes has failed to increase the number of insured Americans and reduce the cost of healthcare.

“We’re going to have bureaucrats running the system. You have to bring in real world experience,” Allen said. “I’m keenly aware of the way it’s affecting jobs and small businesses.”

Republican Alexis Stuart

Finally, Stuart, 60, is a Nipomo resident, author and credit consultant who said her priority would be trimming the federal government and giving states more power. However, Stuart said she supports increasing Department of Defense funding.

“I’m not a politician, I am just a voter. I feel I’m more in touch with what people are going through,” Stuart said. “I am a solution person with the ability to hear a problem and come up with a solution, of looking past the end of my nose.”

Party line on Obamacare 

Across the board, the five Republican challengers all say they would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its state version, Covered California. Each said the U.S. healthcare system is the best in the world.

“Best in the world? Well sure, if you could afford it,” responded Capps, a strong proponent of the ACA. “The truth is, it did very little good to many people who needed it most.”

Incumbent Lois Capps

Capps said she is returning to a grassroots campaign with old-fashioned knocking on doors to get her supporters out to the polls in a nonpresidential election year, when voter turnout traditionally drops off.

“I believe I am still (the best candidate),” Capps said. “It’s a sacred duty. I’m proud of the record I’ve accomplished and I think my constituents know that.”

Of her accomplishments in her most recent term, Capps points to passage of the farm bill, which secured billions of federal aid for California agriculture, as well as lobbying for federal funds for local projects including the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport runway expansion and the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County.

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