“I’m ready to debate Lois Capps anywhere, anytime”, says Tom Watson, her Republican challenger. So far, she hasn’t accepted the confrontation.
Why would she?
The 23rd district is the most gerrymandered district in the country, tailored to maximize the success of her party. Washington calls it the “Ribbon of Shame”. It takes three hours on the highway to drive from South to North in the district. It is an interrupted very narrow serpent of coastal land covering three counties, and capturing the areas with the highest number of registered Democrats. They outnumber registered Republicans with a factor 2 to 1.
The mood of the voters has turned against incumbents. Several Tea Party groups are active in the district, even in liberal Santa Barbara. The last time Capps addressed a crowd, not screened by her staff, she made one of the biggest gaffes of her life. On July 7, standing in front of a roomful of doctors, nurses and people active in the medical profession, she said: “ObamaCare is a big gamble. We don’t know how it will work out.” And, that for an ex-nurse, who always bragged about her knowledge of the workings of the US health system. She admitted to have gambled with the health of her constituents by voting for ObamaCare! She confessed to have bet the livelihood of the doctors!
For the first time since many years Capps has a real challenger: Tom Watson. He is a young local businessman, involved in cutting edge technologies, and a retired navy pilot. Interviews in the local press show him as a passionate debater, with a deep knowledge of the issues. He believes Obama and the Democratic Congress lead the country into a deep abyss. He radiates energy and a sense of urgency to rescue the American dream with all its freedoms. Watson told me on the phone today that he believes Capps will avoid a debate at all cost.
Jim Worthen, a pundit on local TV in Santa Barbara, called Capps on August 13th not one of the smartest minds. She was actually catapulted into her House seat after the early death of her husband-Congressman. Worthen’s provocative statement is certainly aimed at shaming Capps into accepting a debate. The leading voices in the local media are pushing very hard to make a debate happening. We’ll see if the combined efforts in exposing Capps as fleeing from a debate, will eventually force her to accept the trial.
She could hide, spend millions on TV and printed ads, and win the election. Or Capps can accept the debate, and run a huge risk losing the election. Common wisdom in the district believes Capps can’t win a debate with Watson. She hasn’t debated a real challenger in front of a mixed audience, and moderated by a neutral person, since many years. Her office didn’t reply today on her willingness to debate Watson.