Incumbent Congresswoman Lois Capps paid a visit to the Cal Poly campus Tuesday. The democrat who represents California’s 23rd Congressional district (which includes portions of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties) is campaigning for re-election in November’s elections. Capps is known best for her strong stance as an environmental advocate. She was first elected to Congress in 1998 in a special election after the death of her husband, Rep. Walter Capps.
On Tuesday, Capps’ activity centered mostly on the Cal Poly Democrats booth in the University Union Plaza, as she welcomed both registering voters and supporters. However, the second-term congresswoman spoke candidly with all and offered a handshake to all she met, including the surrounding fraternity booths in the UU Plaza.
Although not all agreed with the Santa Barbara resident, Capps said she “still enjoyed herself.”
When asked about her primary purpose for visiting the campus Capps replied, “Voter registration – it doesn’t matter what party. It’s so important that young people just get out and vote.
As far as issues concerning young voters, Capps criticized the recent cutting of student loans.
“I believe college tuition should be tax-free. I think it’s in the best interest of everyone, the best interest of our economy that young people pursue higher education.”
The 68-year-old Capps is also a former registered nurse and healthcare still remains one of her political focal points.
“Our system is broken, we have so many problems.we spend more than any other country on healthcare, yet we are failing in providing (health care),” she said.
The president of the Cal Poly Democrats, Zachary Austin, was impressed by Capps’ energy and described the congresswoman as “very friendly and outgoing.” Austin, a political science junior praised the congresswoman for her stance as a politician.
“She’s a great Democrat, she believes in giving everyone an economic and social chance, she’s been a great opponent of the current administration,” Austin said.
Austin also stated that it was Capps’ organization that originally contacted the Cal Poly Democrats.
Indeed, Capps sighted a need for change in the current political climate, starting at the top.
“We need new leadership, so many things we believe in as a country are being directly opposed, for example the Torture Bill, I think we can have effective legislation without infringing on individual rights,” she said.
Not everyone in the UU Plaza shared the same sentiment as Austin.
Ryan Casey a graphic communication sophomore described Capps in less glowing terms after the Theta Chi member had a prolonged conversation with Capps centering on the war in Iraq.
“She knows what she’s talking about and has some great ideas. She knew what the problems were (in Iraq) but had no solutions,” Casey said.
When asked for her stance on the war the Congresswoman was again uncertain.
“We can’t turn our back on (the Iraqi people), but it’s a mess and there is no easy answer. At some point we have to put the situation in (the Iraqi people’s) hands,” she said.
However, Capps is far more resolute on her Web site (www.house.gov/capps/), stating she believes “our presence in Iraq is hurting, rather than helping” and the best way to support our troops is to “bring them home.”
Capps’ opponent, Republican Victor D. Tognazzini, said he also plans to visit the Cal Poly campus. The Santa Maria native plans to attend a barbecue in conjunction with the Cal Poly Republicans.
Though he said Capps was voted the nicest person in Congress, Tognazzini does find some faults with her.
“(Capps) only voted 8 percent of the time with small business . she voted 92 percent of the time against small business,” Tognazzini said.
Additionally, as a farmer with 34 years of experience, Tognazzini said Capps’ environmental policies differ from his.
Whereas he bases his ideas on science and his “strong, personal commitment,” Tognazzini said Capps relies on the “government to protect (land)” and would prefer to convert land to national parks.
Capps and Tognazzini will vie for the 23rd District Congressional seat when elections are held Nov. 7.