In a race that is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in years as a result of redistricting, four candidates are facing off to represent the newly configured 24th Congressional District.

Formerly the 23rd District, the district now includes all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and a small portion of Ventura County.

With the inclusion of the more conservative northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, the reconfiguration in 2011 reduced the majority of Democratic voter registration in the district from 12 points to four points. 

The candidates, Republicans Abel Maldonado and Chris Mitchum, eight-term incumbent Democrat Lois Capps, and political newcomer Matt Boutte, who is running with no party affiliation, spoke out recently on issues of importance to the region including jobs, the economy, oil production and immigration reform.


Matt Boutte

At 26 years old, Boutte, from San Luis Obispo, is the youngest of the four candidates vying for the 24th District congressional seat. He counts that as an asset.

“As soon as Congress gets serious about addressing long-term deficits, meeting obligations in Social Security and Medicare, we’ll find we’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Many of those will be in my generation,” said Boutte, who is a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Boutte, who is planning to continue school if he’s elected but slow down his academic work “it’s been done before” said that having a younger person at the table brings a legitimacy to the process and fresh ideas and approaches.

“With things like Occupy (movement), we’re seeing young people who are paying attention to decisions and are upset at some of them,” Boutte said.

With a degree in math from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Boutte said his ability with numbers will allow him to deal with issues in a way that makes sense numerically.

“A lot of issues we’re seeing dividing Congress are social issues, contraception, others. Those are important issues, but there are some real quantitative issues where there’s grounds for compromise and negotiations. Having people at the table who understand those numbers and can grapple with them is something Congress needs,” he said.

Running with no party preference makes sense, he said, because “neither Republicans or Democrats are close to a majority” in the 24th District.

“There’s a large number of independent voters, so I think someone situated in the middle, outside the parties, is best suited to represent the Central Coast, especially when you see how upset people are with both parties,” he said.

Upset is one of the main reasons Boutte decided to jump into the political fray.

“I’ve always been someone who’s concerned about politics and policy, but I’ve never really been one to get frustrated or worked up over politics until this last year, with the repeated utter failures of Congress,” he said, pointing as examples to the debt ceiling, and the inability of the Congressional “super committee” to forge a debt reduction deal last fall.

“I got upset for the first time in my life, and eventually decided I should stop complaining and do something about it. Running was something I could do.”

On issues, he lists jobs, the economy and the deficit at the top.

“The primary obligation of the next Congress is to address those deficits,” he said. “There are real legitimate questions about whether the federal government will be able to meet the long-term obligations it has and whether Congress will ever again be a functional institution. 

“That uncertainty is harming businesses across the country and Central Coast,” Boutte continued. “Restoring that confidence in Congress and the federal government will do much to promote growth throughout the economy.”

With regard to increasing onshore oil production to generate local revenue, Boutte said he doesn’t think in terms of energy policy.

“We’re at an either-or situation,” he said. “We need to face the future of promoting renewable energy.”

He said he supports limited onshore drilling, but with “the vision of trying to move towards renewables,” and federal investment in research and development of renewable technology.

On immigration, Boutte said that in talking to farmers in the region and other industries that rely on immigrant labor, he’s hearing a need for legitimacy.

“Immigrant labor has played a very important role in the local economy. We need to recognize and honor that,” he said. “But the fact is that a large amount of that labor is here illegally.”

Boutte advocates for a “robust guest worker program.”

“Any country has a right to secure its borders, but there’s only so much you can do to secure such a long border,” he said, referring to the U.S. border with Mexico. “We should be doing that, and also look at ways to disincentivize entering the country illegally. E-Verify and a guest worker program are ways to do that.”

Boutte said if he doesn’t win June 5, he’s planning to return to San Luis Obispo and begin a law practice after graduating. He said his decision to run was based on circumstances of the times, and if circumstances are right in the future, he’ll consider another bid.


Lois Capps

Capps, a nurse and an eight-term incumbent Democrat from Santa Barbara, said voters should send her back to Washington because of her accomplishments, including securing federal funding to shore up the Santa Maria River levee and for other projects such as the neo-natal intensive care unit at the new Marian Regional Medical Center, a new transit center and library in Santa Maria, solar panels on the county FoodBank in Santa Maria and work on the Santa Maria River Bridge.

“I work with local officials and then go to work on their behalf,” Capps said.

She also points to her support for agriculture, including reauthorizing the 2012 Farm Bill and achieving recognition in the 2008 Farm Bill for specialty crops that are grown in the region.

 Washington’s top priority has been, and will continue to be, getting the economy moving, Capps said.

“Small businesses are where the gains in the economy occur. Making the climate such that small businesses can grow, that’s a critical issue and will continue to be so.”

Capps also touched on the importance of Social Security, Medicare, veterans, and college affordability.

“Making college affordable is a critical issue” to ensure that people who lost jobs can go back and retool, and for young people to be successful, she said.

“This means that I have to keep middle class working families front and center.” 

One of the biggest issues leading up to the election, Capps said, is getting acquainted with people in Lompoc, Orcutt and parts of the region that are new to the 24th District, and educating them about the new election rules.

“The open primary is confusing,” she said. “Most people aren’t thinking about it at all, and all of a sudden come election day, they say ‘What’s this?’ We don’t want that to happen. We’re focused on getting people acquainted with the changes and getting them to vote.”

Capps said she brings her local roots to the table, noting she raised her family on the Central Coast and worked as a nurse and a teacher at Santa Barbara City College.

“Being elected to Congress means an opportunity for me to take those values that I shared with my friends and those in the schools. This is my job now, to represent those folks,” Capps said.

On small business, Capps said “it’s really important” to provide a balance of tax cuts such as production tax credits that allow small businesses to hire and buy equipment. Also important is promoting clean energy and high-tech research, she said, so that businesses in the area are those that provide good-paying jobs.

She pointed to the Health Care Reform Bill and said tax credits allow small businesses to afford insurance for their employees, and touted her support for grants for small businesses in the high tech industry.

On increasing oil production, Capps said she opposes new offshore drilling, and called onshore drilling “a mixed blessing.”

“That’s why I’m such a strong proponent of clean energy,” she said. “We’ll be using fossil fuel, make no mistake, but I think clean energy, green energy, is the budding era of the future for our area to develop.”

On immigration reform, Capps said she has listened to farmers in the area and wasn’t about to support mandated E-Verify legislation, because farmers found it very difficult to implement.

“I know agriculture needs immigration reform. We need a good ag jobs bill; the Dream Act needs to be signed into law,” Capps said, adding that she supports E-Verify as a tool.

“Employers should have tools to verify people they’re hiring legally,” she said. “There should be a variety there. When we had a bill that mandated E-Verify, I couldn’t support that. I do support verification. 

“We have to have people who are properly documented. We should continue to find ways that are more appropriate. That’s what the AgJOBS bill is about.”


Abel Maldonado

Maldonado, a Santa Maria native, has served as the city’s mayor, a state assemblyman, 15th District state senator, and briefly, by appointment, as California’s lieutenant governor.

A Republican, he said he is seeking election to the 24th Congressional District because “Washington cares more about Washington” than it does about people.

A small-business owner, Maldonado said the most important task for Washington right now is to create jobs.

“You’ve got to give some certainty to small family business owners. Start over on Obamacare. We have to end this irresponsible spending and stop the partisan bickering,” he said. “Bottom line, Washington needs to put its fiscal house in order. I think I’ve demonstrated that I can do that.”

Maldonado points to his authoring of Proposition 14, which California voters passed by a 54-percent margin, as an example of his ability to bridge the partisan divide.

“I’m saying I’ve already done it here. We have to become Americans and stop worrying about growing political parties and start growing our economy,” he said.

Maldonado said he’s shown he has the chops to buck party bosses in Washington because he’s voted for state budgets that were “fiscally responsible.”

“I’m not going back there to be told how to vote,” he said. “I’m going back to create jobs, end costly regulations and move America forward.”

Maldonado said his background as a small-business owner is one of the things that sets him apart from his opponents, and criticized President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as a piece of legislation that was “forced on America” without even having been read by many politicians.

The solution, he said, is legislation that allows more access to health care and more competition, and one that allows people to buy health insurance policies across state lines.

Maldonado also advocated for eliminating the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which he characterized as “burdensome and redundant;” lowering the corporate tax rate for small businesses and individuals; and establishing a policy for renewable energy.

On increasing oil production as a source of revenue for the region, Maldonado said that while he doesn’t support offshore drilling, he does support slant, or directional, drilling onshore “as long as it’s done in a safe and clean way.”

“We need to be less dependent on foreign oil,” said Maldonado. “We have the technology today to allow American companies to extract more energy from our land. We shouldn’t burden them with more regulations.”

With regard to immigration reform, Maldonado said he supports E-Verify as long as there is a “comprehensive immigration reform system attached to it.”

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows an employer, using information reported on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form, to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States.

“The last president to give us an immigration reform system was Ronald Reagan,” Maldonado said. “Washington is broken and doesn’t have the courage to come up with a good immigration system.”

Maldonado stressed that he does not support amnesty, but called for a temporary worker permit for temporary jobs.

“I’m the son of a temporary worker and became the lieutenant governor of California. It worked in the past and it will work again today,” Maldonado said, adding that he will work on “comprehensive immigration reform” if he’s elected.


Chris Mitchum

Mitchum, a Republican from Santa Barbara, is making his second bid for public office because, he said, he watched Nancy “Pelosi and her flock of Democrats when they passed Obamacare, going against the will of the people.

“They were going against our Constitution,” he said. “Something like that can’t be tolerated.”

Mitchum, son of actor Robert Mitchum, ran for state Assembly in 1998 and won a 3-way Republican primary but was narrowly defeated by Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson in the general election.

He said Washington needs a balanced budget amendment and needs to cut spending.

To do that, he said, he supports Florida Rep. Connie Mack’s Penny Plan, which would cut one penny out of every dollar actually spent by the federal government from 2012 to 2017.

Under the plan, beginning in fiscal year 2018, there would be a spending cap of 18 percent of gross domestic product (the average federal revenue as a percentage of GDP over the past 30 years). 

By 2019, assuming revenues naturally increase from the current 14.8 percent of GDP to 18 percent of GDP by 2019, the budget would be balanced.

As to “working across the aisle,” Mitchum said it comes down to principles.

“It is time for Republicans to dig down deep and find out where they stand ... I stand firmly on the basic tenets of the Republican Party, which heralds back to our Constitution,” he said. “That is where I am rooted and on issues of principle, I will not budge. On issues of principle, I will show the other side the same ‘bipartisanship’ as they showed us with Obamacare.”

Mitchum said he learned from his first foray into the political arena that he loves running a campaign “out of the back of my car, meeting people, driving everywhere, talking to the people. 

“I love the exchange of ideas,” he said.

When it comes to what he brings to the table, Mitchum said, “I stand for something.”

“I want to get our country back to the Constitution and our government back into the hands of the people,” he continued.

Unlike Maldonado and Capps, he said, he is not a “career politician,” and has no desire to be one.

“I want to go to Congress, not to have a job, but to make a difference,” he said.

Jobs, debt, spending and the deficit are top issues in the coming years, Mitchum said.

On helping small business, Mitchum said that at the national level eliminating the burdens of “Obamacare” and “regulations” that are really “restrictions, to get our natural resources developed, would stimulate the nation ... and help small businesses everywhere.”

As to whether he supports increased oil production in the region as a source of revenue, Mitchum points to a February 1971 study done by UC Santa Barbara that found no damage “at all” from a 1969 oil spill. Additionally, he said there are microorganisms that eat oil, and 160 to 244 barrels a day seep naturally into the Santa Barbara Channel.

“There are 2 billion barrels of oil off Santa Barbara County identified — they think there may be as much as 17 to 20 billion barrels. The 2 billion barrels would stimulate work, create jobs ... and deliver $400 million in royalties to the state for the next 20 years. Twenty-five percent, or $100 million, would come to the county. So, to go after our natural resources improves the environment, creates jobs, and gives money to the state and the county.”

Mitchum also said he “strongly” supports E-Verify, accompanied with strong penalties for employers who violate it.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows an employer, using information reported on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form, to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States.

Additionally, when it comes to immigration reform, Mitchum said he would bring back a Bracero program so that “our brothers to our south could come here for work and return home to enjoy fruits of their labor.”

Noting that immigration reform requires a complex answer, he advocated for “annual work visas to those here who are working, but require them to apply for citizenship if they want to stay.”

Mitchum said that Democrats have managed to frame the “illegal” issue as “Republicans hate Mexicans.”

“That is a flat-out lie. We hate ‘illegal,’” he said, noting that roughly 60 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States are Latino from a variety of areas. The remainder are from places such as Canada, France, China and elsewhere, he said.


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