Last night Democratic congresswoman Lois Capps and Republican candidate Abel Maldonado faced off at the 24th Congressional District Candidate Debate, hosted by the UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center and The Santa Barbara Independent at the Pollock Theater.
The event, moderated by UCSB political science professor John T. Woolley and Santa Barbara Independent reporter Chris Meagher, began with discussion of the economy as both candidates advocated policy-making geared toward small businesses. Capps — a former school nurse, UCSB alumna and Santa Barbara resident since 1964 — emphasized issues of funding and education while former Lieutenant Governor Maldonado focused on supporting small businesses and reforming traditional federal politics.
Recent redistricting has changed the region’s political demographic to include more Republicans to the North and eliminating the predominantly Democratic Southern portion of the past 23rd District.
While Maldonado promised a stable foundation for small businesses, Capps also provided evidence of her support for free market policies while still advocating state backing for education.
“I want to double Pell Grants and cut loans in half … I support targeted investments in research and I’ve supported 18 different tax cuts for small business,” Capps said. “We can get the economy back on track and that includes working together.”
Maldonado, a former UC Regent and Santa Maria native, opened with his stance on the current Congress’s inability to move past partisan lines.
“Washington is broken,” Maldonado said. “It’s full of Democrats fighting Republicans. If we want to change Washington, we have to change the people.”
Capps agreed with her opponent’s stance on the vitality of small businesses, but stressed her support for federal spending.
“Small business is the backbone of economy,” Capps said, “but after the failures of Wall Street, we needed [Obama’s] stimulus.”
According to Maldonado, one of his main focuses as the 24th District Representative would be to stimulate the economy and provide local employment opportunities that would otherwise not be included under federal policies.
“I am the son of an immigrant, and I know what it’s like to work in the fields,” Maldonado said. “The government is not here to create jobs. Government makes it hard to create jobs in America. Everyone in Congress has spent way too much money, and government needs to make it easier to make jobs.”
Capps rebutted by emphasizing the impact that her pro-education stance will have on the future unemployment rate.
“Education is so closely tied to jobs, and college is now less affordable than it has been in years,” Capps said. “We need to make college more affordable to create more jobs for the future.”
In light of both candidates releasing televised ad campaigns attacking each other on the basis of tax credibility, Capps said she is in favor of transparent political support.
“A big challenge to democracy is undisclosed funding. I support Citizens United and The Disclose Act. Entities funding super PACs should attach their names to ads.”
Maldonado agreed, stating that there should be 24-hour disclosures on all donations and that Citizens United is “good reform.”
“We should know where the millions of dollars are coming from,” Maldonado said. “We need more disclosure. It’s a danger to democracy the amount of unregulated funding with no information.”
Maldonado also tied his support for free enterprise to his lesser-noted voting record in favor of education as an ex officio UC Regent.
“I used to be on the Board of Regents. I voted ‘no’ to 10 percent tuition increases. I voted for ‘no’ to high executive pay,” Maldonado said. “I voted down a 5 percent increase in tuition to CSUs.”
The candidates also hashed out their respective stances on the role of big government.
“Nobody likes regulations. When you think about what regulations are, they’re about clean air and clean water,” Capps said. “I voted to reduce regulations and get rid of mercury emissions that contaminate the air. We shouldn’t cater to big businesses to have regulations lowered. I’m for common sense regulations that protect consumers without overburdening industries.”
However, Maldonado accused Capps of going overboard with her support for business-infringing political parameters.
“My opponent has supported 408 regulations. I am for drinking water, air and workers regulations, but Washington now is passing regulations that contribute to the 7.8 percent unemployment rate,” Maldonado said
Attendees such as second-year English and geography major Ansel Lundbord criticized Maldonado’s performance during the debate, stating that he lacked definite examples of his plans as a congressional representative.
“I feel that Maldonado showed a lack of concise policy views,” Lundbord said. “Besides talking about ‘Washington is broken’ and ‘Small business and jobs will solve everything,’ I didn’t hear any specificity on how he’ll actually fix things.”
Contrastingly, fourth-year political science major Eduardo Magana said he gained a newfound respect for Maldonado’s open-minded outlook on seemingly left-wing stances.
“I didn’t think he was for Citizens United, 24-hour disclosure donation, or is opposed to the Romney-Ryan budget. … He was fairly logical and gained credibility.”
In a panel following the debate, political science professor Nick Welsh praised Capps for being able to engage UCSB students.