Rep. Lois Capps enjoys final Democratic National Convention before retirement

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Capps represents the 24th District that includes San Luis Obispo County.
U.S. Rep. Lois Capps at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Capps represents the 24th District that includes San Luis Obispo County.

Thunderstorms may have set the mood on the last day of the Democratic National Convention, but Rep. Lois Capps was not letting the bad weather dull her trip to the historic city of Philadelphia, where history was once again made with the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president.

For Capps, 78, who has represented the Central Coast’s 24th congressional district since 1998, the convention marked both a new era and the beginning of an end. At the conclusion of this political season, she will be retiring.

“It’s an honor to be at such a historic convention,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps. The history of the country is in this city. Being from California, it’s unusual to see.”

Capps said she was proud to have been present for the nomination of the first female presidential nominee to a major party.

“It’s a hallmark for the kind of country we live in –– embracing all people,” said Capps, a Clinton superdelegate. “We don’t always agree, but we always come together. Hillary Clinton personifies that.”

The congresswoman watched the historic moment with her daughter, Laura Capps, who worked as a White House speechwriter during the presidency of Bill Clinton and was an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“She had the opportunity to see her old friends,” Lois Capps said. “She is very much interested in what’s going on, but from her own perspective.”

Over the course of her four days at the convention, Capps made it her mission to connect with the local delegates from her district.

“I’ve been spending time with the delegates from the Central Coast and it’s been fun to represent our part of California together,” she said. “We listened to some of the most amazing speeches and those are memories I’m going to take with me forever.”

One of those delegates was Mike Heyl, a San Luis Obispo resident and Clinton delegate. He first met Capps in 1995.

Heyl said that over their 20-year relationship, she has always been “friendly, hardworking, organized, very detailed and inclusive of everyone.”

“She is the best congresswoman in the country,” Heyl said. “She looks at the big picture when she has to accomplish an issue. She works across the aisle and is constituent-based.”

For Heyl, Capps’ retirement is bittersweet.

“It’s the end of an era as her husband, Walter, was our former congressman,” Heyl said. “I’m excited for her to be able to spend more time with her family and friends, and I’m grateful for her public service to my community and congressional district.”

Capps estimated she has attended five previous conventions, but the speeches and day-to-day activities at this year’s convention have made it one of the most memorable.

“I thought it was such an electric moment when Obama finished his speech and Clinton came out,” she said of Wednesday night’s finale. “It was a perfect ending and tonight it’s Hillary’s turn!”

A long-time Clinton supporter, Capps said she was not surprised by the amount of protest from Bernie Sanders delegates during the convention and understood that it may take time for them to come to terms with their anger and sense of loss.

“It really demonstrates the diversity of ideas of this big party,” she said. “I know that Bernie Sanders and his supporters played a critical role in our party and the finalization of the Democratic platform during this election.”

The strong feelings Sanders delegates are experiencing, “don’t go away magically and I’m willing to give people time to come around,” she said. “In the end, this is between Trump and Clinton, so I’m going to be focused on supporting the major turnout of voters.”

Regardless of current tensions in the Democratic Party, Capps said she believes no one is more qualified to be the next president than Clinton.

“She really stands out,” Capps said. “I believe this is our time –– and it may take a little while –– but we are going to unify and energize ourselves.”

Much is at stake come November, she added. “People care about their jobs and their children. The president will be choosing at least one person for the United States Supreme Court.”

Although this is Capps’ last convention as an elected official, she said her political activism is far from over and she will be campaigning for Clinton and other Democrats down the ticket. She has endorsed Democrat Salud Carbajal for her 24th District seat. He is running against Republican Justin Fareed.

“Believe me, this convention is important,” Capps said. “We will soak all the energy in here and be energized as we head back to our districts. We’ll get maybe a little break, but we’ll start campaigning very soon!”

Taylor Carson is a journalist and a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is reporting on the Democratic National Convention from Philadelphia as part of a project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets.