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Capps Is in Tight Money Race

The congresswoman's opponent in the 23rd District, Beth Rogers, leads in fund-raising.

October 26, 2002|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Campaign finance reports show Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) is facing an aggressive and well-funded challenger in the race for the 23rd Congressional District seat.

Republican businesswoman Beth Rogers, 57, had raised $1.44 million as of Oct. 16, reports filed this week show.

That more than matches the $1.34 million raised by Capps, 64, a two-term congresswoman hoping to win in a newly drawn coastal district that stretches from San Luis Obispo to Port Hueneme.

Rogers' campaign manager, Bob Tapella, said the candidate knew she would have to raise big dollars to get her name and platform known in a district that takes in three counties and 27 cities.

About half of the money in Rogers' treasury comes from her own bank account, the spending reports show. Capps has been in office for more than five years and voters already know her name and record, Tapella said.

"In any campaign, you have to raise your name ID and that takes money," Tapella said. "Beth and [husband] Richard made a pledge that they would take enough money out of their retirement and savings to keep up with Lois."

The multimillion dollar campaign is attracting the interest of strategists, who had all but written off Rogers' chance of victory because Democrats hold a 12-point advantage in registration in the district.

Voting patterns show the seat is not totally safe for a Democrat, said Allan Hoffenblum, a GOP strategist and publisher of the California Target Book, which tracks state and federal races. But it is much stronger than the district Capps successfully defended in the last two elections, he said.

In those races, Capps far outspent her Republican opponents. In 1998, when she won a special election to replace her late husband in the seat, she raised $2.7 million compared with $1.2 million raised by Republican Tom Bordonaro.

Two years ago, Capps raised $1.6 million, double the amount of Republican Michael Stoker, federal campaign records show.

Rogers had spent nearly all of the money flowing to her treasury, but Capps had $636,000 as of Oct. 16, with three weeks left in the campaign.

Capps' campaign manager, Chris Henson, said no more fund-raisers are planned. He said the congresswoman is neither surprised nor alarmed by Rogers' campaign treasury.

"We've known that she is an independently wealthy woman and we've addressed that in our campaign plan," Henson said. "Our plan is to run the same strong grass-roots campaign that we have always run and to focus on the issues."

Both women have been spending heavily on local television and radio ads. Rogers has been criticizing Capps over her vote to oppose Congress' resolution giving President Bush authority to attack Iraq.

Capps' spots have focused on her efforts to pass a Democrat-backed Medicare prescription plan for seniors, address nursing shortages and safeguard Social Security.

A third candidate, Libertarian James Hill, is not required to file spending reports because he intends to raise less than $5,000.

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