sanluisobispo.com | February 20, 2015 –
Two relative newcomers to the local political scene have announced their intention to run for office in 2016, while several seasoned politicians are weighing their options.
Bill Ostrander, 55, a San Luis Obispo resident and farmer who has championed national campaign finance reform as a concerned citizen, has announced his plan to run as a Democrat for the 24th Congressional District seat now occupied by Rep. Lois Capps.
Jordan Cunningham, 37, a lawyer, former deputy district attorney and current Templeton Unified School District board member — who served as strategist for District Attorney Dan Dow’s 2014 campaign — will run as a Republican for the 35th District Assembly seat. The seat is held by Katcho Achadjian, a Republican who will reach term limits in 2016.
Although there has been widespread speculation in political circles that Capps won’t run for a 10th term in 2016, her office declined to comment on the issue this week. The 77-year-old Democrat has served in Congress since 1998.
“The congresswoman is focused on representing the people of the Central Coast as well as the many challenges facing our country, not the next election,” said Capps’ spokesman Chris Meagher in an email.
In January, Capps told The Tribune that she hadn’t thought ahead about re-election, having just come “through probably the toughest election in a very long time.”
“These two years will go by very quickly,” Capps said. “I will make that decision in due time.”
Achadjian told The Tribune this week that he has not yet decided whether he’ll run for any political office in 2016.
Achadjian said he won’t consider pursuing the state Senate seat held by Bill Monning, a Democrat, unless Monning decides not to run for re-election, which doesn’t appear likely. Monning, the Senate majority leader, doesn’t reach term limits until 2020.
Achadjian also is keeping an eye out for what Capps may decide, he said.
“I don’t know yet what I’ll be doing,” Achadjian said. “I could return to business, and give more attention to opportunities there. It’s still early in the process.”
Several others whose names have been floated in races for 2016 either haven’t decided yet on their candidacy or wouldn’t comment, including former state senator Sam Blakeslee, a Republican, and Santa Barbara City Councilman Dale Francisco, a 2014 Republican congressional candidate.
Since leaving office in 2012, Blakeslee has led the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly. Blakeslee’s office said he was unavailable for comment this week.
Francisco said he hasn’t made a decision yet about his candidacy.
Republican Justin Fareed, who ran in the 2014 primary for Capps’ seat, said he is seriously considering another run at the urging of supporters. Fareed lost in the primary to Chris Mitchum, and went on to assist Mitchum’s unsuccessful campaign against Capps in the general election.
“We lost by a narrow margin to Lois, and I think there’s a desire from the electorate to get some new blood in there,” Fareed said.
Mitchum didn’t return a call Friday for comment about his intentions.
Salud Carbajal, a Democrat who is serving his third term as Santa Barbara County supervisor, said he would consider pursuing the congressional seat only if Capps elects not to.
“I’m a supporter and a friend of Congresswoman Capps, and I’d only consider it if she decided not to run again,” Carbajal said. “I love my supervisor job, my constituents and local government.”
Ostrander said campaign finance is the single biggest problem in government today — impacting all reaches of the political system. He held a Citizen’s Congress in 2014 to initiate ideas for a national strategy to combat what he believes are major inequalities about money in politics.
“I will work to change how campaign financing works,” Ostrander said. “It’s the single biggest corruptive influence in politics, and it affects everything from water, to taxation to foreign policy.”
Ostrander — a former actor, former developer, and a humanitarian who has volunteered in Africa and with the Big Brothers program — has never held political office.
But he hopes to work with vested interests to develop holistic solutions on a variety of difficult issues, including protection of the environment and increased taxation of the wealthiest Americans.
“Over the past few decades, the wealthiest of the wealthy have increased their income exponentially while the middle class has stagnated,” Ostrander said.
Cunningham described himself as a conservative willing to work with anyone.
He wants to ensure schools aren’t stuck with policies that can’t be achieved without proper funding. Cunningham also hopes to keep businesses from moving out of state because of overregulation in California, among other ideas.
Cunningham’s experience includes two federal clerkships and serving as a legislative aide to former state Senator Jim Brulte, a Republican, in 2000.
“Things are getting harder for the middle class family and the small business owner,” Cunningham said. “This is a great area to raise a family. I want to make sure that if my kids decide to stay here they can afford it.”
Tribune assistant city editor Janet Lavelle contributed to this story.