Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado will run for Congress next year against longtime incumbent Democrat Lois Capps of Santa Barbara.
Maldonado, a Republican, confirmed in a phone interview with The Tribune on Friday that he is running for Congress. The Federal Elections Commission also confirmed that he has filed the paperwork that will allow him to form a campaign committee and collect money.
A contest between the two veteran state politicians should ensure a lively race in a district that has been safely Democratic.
Capps, too, will run, and is “prepared for a competitive race regardless of whom her opponents will be,” her spokeswoman, Ashley Schapitl, told The Tribune.
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Capps will run on her record, as well as creating jobs and fighting efforts to repeal health care reform, Schapitl said.
Well known on the Central Coast, Maldonado is a former Santa Maria mayor who later represented San Luis Obispo County in the Assembly and state Senate.
Neither candidate knows yet what the district boundaries will be, and Capps could find herself in a less Democrat-friendly district next year. A new voter-created Citizens Redistricting Commission is redrawing congressional boundaries for California legislators.
The districts of both Central Coast members of Congress have been criticized as being drawn in a way that benefits one political party, a practice known as gerrymandering.
The 23rd, represented by Capps, stretches in a ribbon up the coast from Ventura to San Luis Obispo County. The 22nd, held by Republican Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, sprawls hundreds of miles from the high desert east of Mojave to within a mile of the ocean in Arroyo Grande.
In 2006, Maldonado failed to win his party’s primary in an attempt to become state controller. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him lieutenant governor last year after then-Lt. Gov. John Garamendi resigned.
In November, Maldonado lost to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the statewide race for the post.