Voters Go To Polls In Calif. Congressional District
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Jan. 12) -- Voters are going to the polls today in California's 22nd congressional district to pick a replacement for the late Rep. Walter Capps, who died of a heart attack last October.
All the candidates appear on a single ballot in today's special election. If no one gains a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a March runoff.
The three best-known candidates are Democrat Lois Capps, widow of the late representative, and Republicans Brooks Firestone and
Tom Bordonaro, both state assemblymen.
Turnout normally is light for special elections, but officials reported a heavier-than-usual demand for absentee ballots. Some Republicans are worried that Firestone, a moderate, and Bordonaro, a conservative, could split the GOP vote and allow Democrats to hang on to the seat.
Capps says she wants to continue her husband's work and says her lifetime of experiences will help. In one campaign ad she says, "As a teacher and mother, I'll make improving our schools a top priority. I'll use my experience as a nurse to fight for health care that protects seniors and the right to choose our own doctor."
Firestone is trying to force Capps into a runoff. A moderate Republican, he was urged to run by some powerful party members including House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former President Gerald Ford.
"I think this is an historic race," Firestone said. "It's the first race of '98 ... It's an indication of what will happen in the future, and I think it's very important that a centrist Republican be elected."
But Firestone is too moderate for Bordonaro, a hard-core conservative who is anti-abortion and pro-gun.
Bordonaro says Firestone was recruited because of his wealth. He also attacks national Republicans for coming in so quickly after Capps' death.
"It was awful," Bordonaro said. "I mean, the vultures came into the district so quickly ... When Speaker Gingrich recruited Mr. Firestone to run, it rubbed me the wrong way. I think that folks 3,000 miles away ought to stay out of our business and let the Central Coast decide who their next representative will be."
Along with the candidates' own campaign ads, the race has attracted the attention of special-interest groups who are spending on behalf of their favored candidates.
The 22nd congressional district runs from fashionable Santa Barbara, along picturesque seaside communities, through farm country and rolling hillsides. Its voters have had less time than usual to focus on the campaign, which started just before the holidays.
Today's contest is the first congressional race of 1998, but there also will be special elections in California to replace the late Rep. Sonny Bono, who died in a skiing accident, and Rep. Ron Dellums, who has announced plans to resign next month.
Republicans hold a 227-203 majority in the House and hope to
retain an advantage after the '98 midterm elections.