Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: March 1998, 8th full term.

Born: January 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

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.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Lutheran

Family: widowed , 3 (1 deceased) children

Lois Capps, a Democrat who first won her seat in 1998, is known for her pleasant disposition—she regularly is named “nicest House member” in Washingtonian’s annual anonymous survey of Capitol Hill staffers. With her background as a nurse and a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Capps has focused on addressing nursing shortages, mental health issues, and reforming Medicare.

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, 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 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%. In the runoff, Bordonaro was hurt by divisions in the local GOP, and 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. Capps won 55%-43%.

She is a solid liberal, but she has worked more successfully with Republicans than has the typical California Democrat. “I find it uncomfortable to be around people yelling at each other,” she told the Los Angeles Times in October 2012. She worked with conservative California Republican Darrell Issa in 2011 in asking U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to support California flower growers in their efforts to compete with competitors in Colombia and other nations. Later, she teamed with Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the GOP leadership, on a House-passed measure to bolster research on pediatric diseases, and with Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on another measure assisting states in streamlining certification requirements for veterans with military medical training who want to continue careers as emergency medical technicians.

Earlier, Capps 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 health care policy. During the 2009-2010 health care overhaul debate, she emerged as a leading opponent of efforts by anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to prevent federal subsidies to insurance carriers providing abortion coverage to women. She developed what she called “an abortion-neutral compromise” that would have barred direct payments of federal funds in most cases. She succeeded in drawing support from several pro-abortion rights moderates. But Stupak and his allies remained unsatisfied, contending that her proposal would have allowed indirect payments. They held up the final bill’s fate until President Barack Obama brokered a last-minute deal.

In keeping with her district’s interests, Capps also focuses on environmental policy. She sought in 2011 to prevent the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from relicensing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in her district until seismic studies were completed to address the area’s vulnerability to earthquakes. After the 2010 BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, she pushed for an aggressive federal response, calling for an independent commission to make recommendations on avoiding future disasters. Along with Washington Democrat Jay Inslee, she led an effort to postpone exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean. 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 organized labor. After she voted for normalizing trade relations with China, the Teamsters claimed that she’d betrayed them. She later patched things up, and in recent years she co-sponsored organized labor’s card-check legislation aimed at making it easier for workers to join unions.

In her first reelection bid, in 2000, Capps had serious competition from moderate Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor. She had a big fundraising edge and won 53%-44%. After promising in 1998 to serve only three terms, she abandoned that pledge. She was not seriously challenged until 2012, when Republican Abel Maldonado ran against her in the redrawn 24th District. A former California state senator and lieutenant governor, Maldonado had a moderate voting record and drew interest from national Republicans who were thrilled to have a Latino candidate running in a district where 29% of voting age citizens were Latinos. But Capps outraised him by more than $1 million, and, in a year in which Obama won California easily, she had no trouble winning, 55%-45%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3601

(202) 225-5632

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2231
Washington, DC 20515-0524

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3601

(202) 225-5632

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2231
Washington, DC 20515-0524

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 730-1710

(805) 730-9153

301 East Carrillo Street Suite A
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2611

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 730-1710

(805) 730-9153

301 East Carrillo Street Suite A
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2611

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 546-8348

(805) 546-8368

1411 Marsh Street Suite 205
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-2923

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 546-8348

(805) 546-8368

1411 Marsh Street Suite 205
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-2923

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 349-3832

(805) 361-0895

1101 South Broadway Suite A
Santa Maria, CA 93454-6660

DISTRICT OFFICE

(805) 349-3832

(805) 361-0895

1101 South Broadway Suite A
Santa Maria, CA 93454-6660

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Aerospace

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Agriculture

Eliot Crafton
Senior Policy Advisor

Animal Rights

Eliot Crafton
Senior Policy Advisor

Appropriations

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Arts

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Budget

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Campaign

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Disaster

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Education

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Energy

Eliot Crafton
Senior Policy Advisor

Environment

Eliot Crafton
Senior Policy Advisor

Finance

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Foreign

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Govt Ops

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Gun Issues

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Health

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Homeland Security

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Housing

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Human Rights

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Immigration

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Judiciary

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Adriana Hidalgo
Legislative Aide

Labor

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Land Use

Eliot Crafton
Senior Policy Advisor

Military

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Rules

Sarah Rubinfield
Chief of Staff

Science

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Seniors

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Small Business

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Social Security

CJ Young
Communications Director

cj.young@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3601

Telecommunications

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Trade

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Transportation

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Veterans

Welfare

Erick Siahaan
Legislative Assistant; Systems Administrator

Women

Adriane Casalotti
Deputy Chief of Staff; Legislative Director

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Lois Capps
Votes: 156,749
Percent: 55.1%
Abel Maldonado
Votes: 127,746
Percent: 44.9%
2012 PRIMARY
Lois Capps
Votes: 72,356
Percent: 46.36%
Abel Maldonado
Votes: 46,295
Percent: 29.66%
Chris Mitchum
Votes: 33,604
Percent: 21.53%
2010 GENERAL
Lois Capps
Votes: 111,768
Percent: 57.77%
Tom Watson
Votes: 72,744
Percent: 37.6%
2010 PRIMARY
Lois Capps
Votes: 52,305
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Lois Capps
Votes: 171,403
Percent: 68.07%
Matt Kokkonen
Votes: 80,385
Percent: 31.93%
2008 PRIMARY
Lois Capps
Votes: 50,385
Percent: 99.68%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (58%), 2008 (68%), 2006 (65%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (59%), 2000 (53%), 1998 (55%), 1998 special (53%)

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