Come Nov. 2, Congresswoman Lois Capps will be defending her seat in the House of Representatives for the fourth time, this time from Republican challenger Dr. Don Regan.
Capps, who worked as a school nurse before taking over as the Democratic representative for the 23rd District in 1998 after her husband, Congressman Walter Capps, passed away, has since successfully maintained her spot as the incumbent through three re-election bids. Regan, an audiologist, is mounting his second attempt to win the congressional seat after losing in the Republican primaries for the 2000 election.
The 23rd District encompasses all the coastal communities, stretching from the northern edge of San Luis Obispo County down through Santa Barbara County to Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
With such a large area to represent, both candidates said they have been traveling extensively to garner support for their campaigns. Both have made stops at UCSB, and Capps said she has been working closely with the Campus Democrats to register as many new voters as possible.
“We’ve been so pleased at the response for this election,” Capps said. “Our goal was to add 9,000 new registrations this year, and I think we may have even surpassed that. That’s as many as we’ve ever registered.”
Regan said he will open an office in Isla Visa if he is elected, and he said he has been working hard to deal with his constituents on an individual basis whenever possible.
“All things aside, you campaign one person at a time,” Regan said. “I do not intend on ignoring I.V. or any other community in the district.”
As a UCSB graduate, Capps said she has always been committed to supporting the university and has been fighting for more federal funding for student loans. She said she also supports the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act, which is intended to provide all children with an equal opportunity for high-quality education.
“I have a tremendous allegiance to UCSB,” Capps said. “It feels like home to me.”
Regan said his top priority is bringing jobs and prosperity to the area. One of the ways he has proposed to do that is to support companies that are developing technologies that provide an alternative to oil, like hydrogen-based fuels. He said this would also serve to reduce pollution and the cost of living in areas like Santa Barbara.
“We are in a district with the potential for the most prosperous economy in the nation,” Regan said. “We need to develop alternate energy sources, and our district can be number one in building the infrastructure for it.”
Capps said she has battled against legislation that would allow oil companies to pursue drilling on more than 30 California offshore oil leases and in the Los Padres National Forest.
“I have been on the forefront of fighting that,” Capps said. “There’s a tremendous responsibility to protect the environment here.”
One of the major threats to the environment in this district, Regan said, is the pollution created by the amount of commuter traffic that traverses Highway 101 every day. He said widening 101 is a major priority for him, and he said Capps has shown inaction by failing to start such an effort sooner.
“This is becoming an overwhelming problem,” Regan said. “We’ve got to open up that freeway, and open it up now.”
Both candidates said they support bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as soon as possible, but Capps said she voted against the original congressional resolution authorizing the war. She said this, along with numerous other instances in which she has opposed the Bush administration’s decisions, is a good indicator that she would be a stronger representative than Regan.
“I have a track record in Congress,” Capps said. “I have stood up to this administration in ways that my opponent would not.”
As a practicing audiologist, a doctor who diagnoses and recommends treatment for hearing loss, Regan said he understands the need for affordable healthcare and advocates tax breaks for employers who offer their workers medical plans.
“I see the stress our patients are under economically,” Regan said. “No one needs to worry about my commitment to healthcare.”
Both candidates are running on pro-choice platforms. Capps said the high likelihood that the president will get to appoint two Supreme Court justices in the next four years makes it extremely important for students and other young adults to vote in this election, whether they support abortion rights or not.
“It’s a huge issue, especially for young people,” Capps said.
Regan said he is running as a nonpartisan Republican, and he said he vows to focus solely on fighting for his constituents’ best interests.
“It’s not about parties,” Regan said. “This is not about being a Republican, it’s about serving the community.”
Regan said his decision to run for Congress was born out of a desire to help his community on as large a scale as possible.
“It’s my passion to serve people,” Regan said. “As a doctor I’ve been doing that for years, and this is just an extension of that.”
Faced with the difficult task of challenging a longtime Democratic incumbent, Regan has been forced to take the offensive with his campaign. He said Capps has failed to make the most of her six years in office, and has routinely ignored the needs of her constituents.
“Capps’ hands off policy was fine in its time,” Regan said. “But now we’ve got to start moving.”
However, Capps said she is confident her past congressional service will give her constituents plenty of reasons to re-elect her so she can continue to represent them on a national level.
“It’s my duty to be a voice for local people to the federal government,” Capps said. “I have an open door, and the people I represent have always been welcome to come to me with their concerns.”
Regan said he believes he will be able to displace Capps because voters are ready for a switch to more active representation.
“Anything is better than what we’ve had, which is six years of nothing,” Regan said. “We’re going to win because people understand that.”
Capps said she has never taken her re-election bids lightly, and she said this one will be no different.
“I’m hoping that it will not be a really close race,” Capps said. “I’ve always had very tough elections, and I take each one very seriously.”