Incumbent Democrat Lois Capps survived a redistricting that threatened to take away her longtime grip on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, as she convincingly held off Republican challenger Abel Maldonado on Tuesday to go on to her seventh term in Congress.
Maldonado issued a concession speech shortly before midnight, in which he congratulated Capps and thanked his family, staff, and supporters for their efforts.
The statement came after results showing him falling father behind as the evening progressed.
In a race that drew national attention from both political parties and PACs, Capps built a 55.2 to 44.8 percent margin over Maldonado, with 269 out of 430 precincts — 63 percent — counted.
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She also led in each county, especially notable in San Luis Obispo County, where the GOP has a registration edge.
Capps credited the work of her staff, not only for their efforts during the campaign, but for providing constituent service during her time in office.
“It’s about what works for people,” she said, and “making a difference in people’s lives.”
Newly drawn congressional district lines had threatened to end Capps’ 12-year tenure.
Capps and Maldonado were seeking to represent the Central Coast in the newly drawn 24th congressional district, which includes Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties as well as a sliver of Ventura County.
A state commission redrew the boundaries last year. The previous lines heavily favored the Democrat candidate, but the new lines cut back an overwhelming Democrat registration advantage.
That gave Republicans hope. But it did not bear fruit.
Maldonado last served as California’s lieutenant governor under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Voters Tuesday brought to an end what became a long, exhausting and occasionally bitter contest.
The race was high-profile from the get-go, as Maldonado, a Santa Maria resident who previously represented San Luis Obispo County in the Assembly and state Senate, set his sights on the six-term incumbent, whom he blamed for the economy’s slow recovery. She had been in Washington too long, he said.
Capps, in turn, painted Maldonado, who has held several elected and appointed government positions, as a candidate motivated more by personal ambition than a desire to serve the public.
The two pummeled each other with a series of negative advertisements that inundated the airwaves during the election season and that alienated some voters.
Beyond the personalities and the personal attacks, the two had clear differences on the issues.
Perhaps the signature issue that divided them and illuminated where they parted company on policy was the Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare."
Capps, a former nurse, helped draft it and aggressively helps constituents access the services it already provides.
Maldonado called the act a classic example of government overreach. He said he wanted Congress to throw it out and start all over again on health care, although he sometimes added that he might keep some parts of the act.
Both candidates said improving the economy and adding jobs were their top priorities, but each blamed the policies of the other party for creating what Capps called "a very deep hole."