GOP candidates agree on one thing: Time to defeat Capps

When two Republican congressional hopefuls called Democrat congresswoman Lois Capps a “nice lady” at a primary debate Thursday night in San Luis Obispo, the nearly 50 Republicans in attendance didn’t seem to mind. But they also all seemed to agree that “nice” isn’t enough.

“Capsize Capps” touted Carole Lee Miller, one of the five Republican candidates vying to replace Capps as representative of the 23rd congressional district come November. The others are John Davidson, Dave Stockdale, Clark Vandeventer and Tom Watson.

But the odds are against them. Capps has held her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives since first elected in March 1998.

The registration in her highly gerrymandered district, which stretches from northern Ventura County to coastal Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, is 47 percent Democratic and 28 percent Republican.

The candidates remained congenial while answering audience submitted questions, and were all in agreement that tax cuts are key to economic recovery, and that immigration regulations need to be strictly enforced.

Watson, a retired Naval Officer and owner of two technology companies, was unable to attend the event due to a previous engagement. His campaign manager, John Van Winkle, said Watson’s main aim is to cut spending, because he is weary of the debt that his two-year-old son will inherit.

Stockdale and Vandeventer’s suggestions to “Drill, baby, drill!” to gain energy independence met cheers from the audience, while Davidson endorsed considering all avenues for energy, including nuclear power, and Miller advocated drilling on land while protecting the ocean. No one offered a clear solution for improving the finances of the Medicare system, though all vowed to tackle the issue.

Few small barbs were exchanged. Vandeventer said that Capps will use Davidson’s Thousand Oaks address, which not located in the 23rd district, as evidence against him—though candidates are not required to live in the district. Davidson said he once lived in the district, but the lines were re-drawn.

He also said that his consensus building skills and fundraising power make him the only person who can beat Lois Capps. The war veteran and founder and president of Davidson Insurance & Financial Services Inc. in Thousand Oaks, and has served as president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, a professional association representing 200,000 members and their staff.

Miller of Shell Beach, owner of a hospitality and business consulting firm, emphasized that her business experience has taught her how to solve financial problems.

She has served as vice president in the Arizona and California Federations of Republican Women, and worked for fifteen years as executive vice president at the property management firm Lee David International.

Stockdale of Orcutt, who has owned a life and health insurance business in Santa Maria since 1985, repeatedly emphasized that America needs to get back to the basics of personal responsibility, protecting God-given liberties, and facilitating commerce.

Vandeventer of Goleta, who founded the nonprofit consulting firm World Changers Inc., in 2008, emphasized that he has the tenacity, as well as fundraising experience as deputy director of the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, to defeat Capps. He also said he is not afraid of the “tough conversations” necessary to cut spending.

The forum was sponsored by the Republican Party and the Lincoln Club of San Luis Obispo County; neither group has officially endorsed a candidate.