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Capps wins in 24th Congressional District

November 7, 2012 | 12:19 am

Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara beat Republican Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria in the race to represent the Central Coast in Congress, according to incomplete returns.

Maldonado conceded to Capps shortly before midnight. "A short while ago, I spoke with Rep. Lois Capps, and offered her my congratulations on her victory," Maldonado said in a statement.

The seat was one of the few in California that the Republican Party hoped to wrest from a Democratic incumbent on an election day that was expected to feature a strong statewide showing for Democrats.

The intensity and attacks sharpened as the political parties and independent political groups -- including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Planned Parenthood and a PAC supported by the son of billionaire investor Charles Munger  -- poured more than $3 million into the contest.

The 24th Congressional District had been a safe Democratic seat until new boundaries were crafted last year, giving Democrats just a 3-point edge over the GOP in voter registration. The new district includes San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and a sliver of Ventura County.

Capps and Maldonado accused each other of being in league with their party’s extremes while portraying themselves as moderates willing to work across the aisle.

Capps, in Congress since 2003, cast herself an even-tempered former school nurse who prides herself on recruiting Republicans to co-sponsor her bills.  Maldonado emphasized his impoverished, immigrant roots and his independence as a state senator when he bolted from GOP party ranks and voted for a 2009 budget that triggered tax increases.

-- Phil Willon