Rep. Lois Capps (D)
Elected: March 1998, 6th full term.
Born: Jan. 10, 1938, Ladysmith, WI .
Home: Santa Barbara.
Education: Pacific Lutheran U., B.S. 1959, Yale U., M.A. 1964, U. of CA at Santa Barbara, M.A. 1990.
Family: Widowed; 3 children (1 deceased).
Professional Career: Staff nurse, Visiting Nurses Assn., 1963–64; Head nurse, Yale New Haven Hospital, 1960–63; Instructor, Santa Barbara City Col., 1983–95; Nurse, Santa Barbara Schl. Dist., 1979–96.
The congresswoman from the 23rd District is Lois Capps, a Democrat first chosen in a March 1998 special election to replace her late husband, Walter Capps. Lois Capps grew up in Wyoming and Montana, the daughter of a Lutheran minister. She graduated from college with a nursing degree and was the head nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital when she met Walter Capps, a student at Yale Divinity School. In 1964, he became a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Lois Capps became the head elementary-school nurse for the Santa Barbara school system, director of the county’s teenage pregnancy and parenting project, and a part-time instructor at Santa Barbara City Community College. In 1996, Walter Capps ran for the U.S. House and defeated Andrea Seastrand, a conservative state Assemblywoman. He died of a heart attack in his first year in office, in October 1997.
|Lois Capps (D)||171,403||(68%)||($957,695)|
|Matt Kokkonen (R)||80,385||(32%)||($61,178)|
|Lois Capps (D)||50,385||(100%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (65%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (59%), 2000 (53%), 1998 (55%), 1998 (53%)
Lois Capps ran for his seat against Republican Assemblyman Tom Bordonaro, the favorite of Christian conservatives. Bordonaro, a paraplegic since a car accident in college, emphasized his “blue-collar roots and common values.” Capps had help from labor unions and environmental groups. In the January 1998 primary, she finished first with 45% to 29% for Bordonaro. In the runoff, Bordonaro was hurt by divisions in the local GOP. Capps won a surprisingly large 53%-45% victory. The same two candidates were on the ballot in November. But national Republicans had little hope of winning by then, and it was not a priority race. Capps won 55%-43%.
She is a solid liberal, but she worked more successfully with Republicans when she was in the minority than the typical California Democrat. Perhaps it is her disposition. A 2006 survey of congressional aides by Washingtonian magazine named Capps “the nicest member of Congress.”
With her background as a nurse and her seat on Energy and Commerce Committee, Capps has focused on the national nursing shortage, mental health issues and reforming the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. She won enactment of a bill to attract more students into the nursing profession. In 2007, she became vice chair of the Health Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, an important perch for shaping the nation’s health care policy.
Another of her major interests, in keeping with her district’s interests, is environmental policy. In 2004, the House passed her amendment to stop a comprehensive inventory of oil and gas resources beneath the outer continental shelf. She also opposed the Bush administration plan to drill in the Los Padres National Forest and has been outspoken against offshore drilling along the California coast. She called Bush’s 11th-hour proposal for offshore drilling “nothing more than a parting gift to his buddies in the oil and gas industry” and predicted it would be shelved by the Obama administration. In 2005, she successfully opposed an attempt by California Republicans to convert part of the Channel Islands into a private recreation area for the military.
Capps has had an up-and-down relationship with her friends in organized labor. After she voted for normalizing trade relations with China, the Teamsters claimed that she’d betrayed them. She later patched things up by opposing the proposal to give President Bush broad authority to negotiate free-trade agreements.
In her first re-election bid, in 2000, Capps had serious competition from moderate Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County Supervisor and California Agricultural Labor Relations Board chairman. She had a big fundraising edge and won 53%-44%. After promising in 1998 to serve only three terms, she abandoned that pledge. Since 2002, she has not been seriously challenged. She has some family ties to the new Obama administration. In July 2007, her daughter, Laura Capps, a Democratic press aide on Capitol Hill, married Obama press aide Bill Burton.