The race to be elected California’s 23rd district congressman between current congresswoman Lois Capps and former California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado is a heated one. Both candidates not only have extensive political experience, but also have experience in the area — Capps as the current congresswoman and Maldonado as a Santa Maria native. The upcoming election will decide how San Luis Obispo and its surrounding areas will be presented to the nation.
The candidates are running for a spot in the United States House of Representatives, representing the 23rd District of California, which encompasses most of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Capps is a part of the Democratic party, while Maldonado identifies with the Republican party.
Maldonado grew up on a small, family strawberry farm near Santa Maria. He studied crop science at Cal Poly and after graduating, used his education to further his family’s farm. Maldonado first got into politics as a Santa Maria city councilman when he was in his 20s, and later went on to represent the 15th district as a California state senator. His most recent political stint was as lieutenant governor of California, a position for which he was nominated by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maldonado served as lieutenant governor from 2010 to 2011.
Capps grew up in Santa Barbara and went on to study at Pacific Lutheran University. She later earned master’s degrees from both Yale University and University of California, Santa Barbara. She entered the political realm through her late husband, Walter, who also served in the House of Representatives. Capps worked for 20 years as a nurse and teacher before she was elected to represent the district in the House of Representatives in 1998. She has served in the House since then.
Having a local influence in the federal government is important to students. Mechanical engineering junior Lilly Hoff said she likes the fact that the area is represented in Congress.
“I think it’s really cool to have a local representative because it gives our voice more of an impact,” Hoff said.
Each candidate identifies different issues as core to their campaign, and voters must determine which issues are the most important to them. Maldonado tends to focus more on healthcare and fiscal policy, while Capps takes the human rights route. Both, however, agree on the need to create and maintain jobs, though they plan to go about the process in different ways.
Maldonado, according to his campaign website, supports a number of potential measures to help promote job creation as opposed to a single proposed act that would cut funds from several state-funded areas, including Medicare. Maldonado’s preferred measures would potentially strive to allow tax cuts on small businesses, provide a one-year extension to individual tax rates and get rid of a tax placed on medical device manufacturers. All this ties back into job creation because cutting Medicare funds would mean cutting employees in the health industry.
According to her campaign website, Capps supported and voted in favor of the Recovery Act in 2009. She plans to support small businesses through tax incentives and also invest in clean energy, which she believes will lead to long-term savings.
This brings up an issue which is close to Capps’ heart — environmentalism. Capps is a staunch supporter of “green” energy and supports projects to promote that cause and give tax credits to companies that create or research renewable energy sources.
For students, job creation remains one of the most important local issues.
“It’s scary that we’re going to be entering the workforce in such a weak economy,” mechanical engineering junior Kyra Wells said. “I know there are a lot of other issues in this race, but we need to get the economy running to fix any of those and job creation is really the best way to do that.”
An interesting element of the race is both candidate’s tendencies to advertise on an offensive level. Both Maldonado and Capps have run advertisements attacking their opponent on various issues, lacking much backup from their own ideas and policies. As the race nears the finish line, advertisements seem to have become increasingly aggressive.
“It’s sad that politics has come more to attacking whoever you’re opposing than the actual policies themselves, especially when so much is on the line as far as our economy,” biomedical engineering junior Josh Wilbur said.