Archive » September 23, 2010
WATSON WARRING TO OUST CAPPS FOR 23RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
Call his bid for the 23rd Congressional District seat a long shot, a slim chance or even impossible, but Republican Tom Watson is confident he’ll capture the overwhelmingly Democratic district by campaigning as a free-market, small-government conservative. Standing in his way is a tall hurdle in Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), who has comfortably held her seat for six straight terms.
Less than two months before the general election, Watson, of Carpinteria, is not content to merely campaign by riding the anti-incumbent mood, but is staying relentlessly on message while also looking for chinks in Capps’s armor.
Watson says he was drawn into the race after he called his opponent’s office to get more information about the healthcare bill, which was passed earlier this year and is scheduled to take effect later this month. Capps has hailed the bill as a landmark initiative to ensure quality, affordable health care for all Americans, but fiscal conservatives like Watson see it as the epitome of the kind of “big government” that’s moving the country in the wrong direction.
“I found myself arguing with her staffers over the bill that they didn’t know anything about,” he recalled. “I was a constituent, and I wasn’t getting any answers.”
Watson contends that the proposed legislation will drive up costs by imposing billions of dollars in new taxes and penalties, killing jobs and harming the economy as the financial burden of health care falls on employers and workers.
“If you look at this administration and this Congress, their view is that everything has to be a federal government solution,” Watson said.
“They went 180 degrees in the wrong direction with the health care bill.”
As a naval and flight officer in the U.S. Navy, Watson flew F-14 and F/A-18 aircrafts before moving to Los Angeles to work for IBM as a project manager. He later joined a start-up in Goleta called Agile RF, Inc., that designs and manufactures wireless components for cellular handsets, laptops, military radios and electronically steerable antennas.
Watson says his background in the public and private sectors makes him uniquely qualified to shake things up in Washington. During his naval career, Watson performed flight testing of tactical jets and completed more than 500 carrier-arrested landings. He also saw “government waste” in the “acquisition side” of the military, where designing a new ship would too often, he said, come years late, and well over budget.
“That was government inefficiency at work,” he said. “That part of the government wants to run our health care system, and has bankrupted Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
Watson further touted his experience running start-ups that he says drive most of the job growth in the country.
“I’ve had to raise venture capital and go through all the problems that small businesses face, including the red tape that government throws in their way,” he said. “There’s an attempt to squash the entrepreneurial spirit.”
According to Watson, California’s costly labor and environmental regulations drive thousands of businesses out of state every couple years, further exacerbating the state’s unemployment rate. Emblematic of this problem, he contended, was the decision by Intel Corp., a pioneer of Silicon Valley, to begin leaving the state years ago.
What the exact impact this business climate has on businesses depends on your source.
A 2007 study by Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, concluded that the number of California jobs lost annually because of business relocation – nearly 11,000 – is “relatively inconsequential.”
Watson calls himself an originalist, which means he believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Contrary to those who believe it must evolve and adapt to a changing society, he doesn’t think the founding framework is a “living document.” “I took an oath as a young man to support and defend our Constitution, and it never needed more defending than it does now,” he said.
The government, Watson believes, has been on a dizzy, unrelenting march toward undermining the country’s founding principles by “controlling the private sector, growing the public sector, dictating our choices in health care, energy and other areas of our lives and forcing its ideologically driven and uninformed choices upon us.”
If he wins a two-year term, Watson said he would work to repeal the health-care bill, continue former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for those making more than $250,000, reduce corporate tax rates, freeze federal hiring, cut up to 10 percent of “underperforming federal employees,” cut federal workers’ pay by as much as 10 percent, restructure entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and eliminate or reduce the Energy, Agriculture, and Education departments, as well as other departments he considers wasteful or unnecessary.
“This job market is not going to recover until we change policies,” Watson stated. “Businesses are scared. They’re sitting on trillions of dollars in corporate coffers because they’re worried about what’s going to happen in Washington.
“The cap and trade bill, the health care bill, and this financial regulation have hamstrung the private sector with poorly informed ideologically driven choices that don’t benefit the private sector,” he added.
Promoting virtually unfettered capitalism following one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression may be a tough sell to local voters, but even here Watson blames much of the monetary malaise on the federal government.
“The Government was asleep on the job,” he contended. “There were several attempts in Congress to do something about this in the early 2000s up until the collapse. The conditions that allowed this to happen were created by your federal government.”
Although the government did play a hand in the latest recession, the conditions for the financial meltdown are multifold, according to the Economist magazine, which noted in 2008 that, “This crisis is a genuinely democratic one, with hard-working homeowners and billionaire villains each playing a role.”
The U.S. economy, Watson contends, isn’t at a crossroads; it is heading into a fork in the road to the point of no return. He says our debt load is almost 90 percent of the GDP, and points to Greece as an example of where we’re headed if the economy isn’t turned around.
“If we keep spending money on policies like this health care bill, which is going to rack up trillions, and pay for entitlements the same way we are, we’re on a course to bankruptcy.”
Watson’s forecast is based on a report released in June by the Congressional Budget Office.
The agency projected that federal debt will reach 62 percent of GDP by the end of this year – the highest percentage since shortly after World War II. The CBO notes that debt would reach nearly 90 percent of GDP if lower tax revenues– including the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts Watson supports – and higher federal spending continue.
One issue that really sets Watson at odds with Capps is the “Cap and Trade” bill to curb greenhouse gas, which she had positioned alongside comprehensive health-care reform as one of her top two legislative priorities.
“The amount of carbon emissions reduced by this policy is inconsequential, even if you believe in all of this man-made global warming stuff,” he said. “Everything we do as a society requires energy. It’s fundamental for the goods and services that we produce in this country. We have to have cost-effective sources of energy available, or we will grievously harm our economy and accomplish nothing.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in June 2009 that the House cap and trade bill would cost the economy about $22 billion in 2020, or about $175 per household – though it doesn’t assess the purported cost-savings from increased demand for “clean” energy produced by wind turbines and solar panels, and also for energy-conserving products such as weatherization of homes and businesses. The conservative Heritage Foundation issued a report in June saying the CBO was greatly underestimating the household impact of the bill.
Regardless of its impact, the Cap and Trade bill, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives last year before stalling in the Senate, has become a political liability for Democrats and Republicans because it’s perceived as another out-of-control big government policy. Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party-backed candidate for the senatorial race in Delaware, defeated her opponent, Rep. Michael Castle, in part by attacking his support of the bill.
Although many political observers believe the gale-force winds that blew Democrats to power in 2006 have shifted in the GOP’s direction, this year doesn’t promise to be a slam-dunk for Republicans like Watson who face obstacles in the form of money and politically-friendly districts.
As of June 30, 2010, Capps had $492,852 cash on hand, while Watson had $52,545. Her top three contributors included the American Association for Justice, also known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and wireless music system developer Sonos Inc. Watson’s top contributors were Capital Group Companies, Essex Capital Corporation, and Rbm (Responsible Biosolids Management) Inc.
Watson must also beat the entrenched incumbent in a district that is drawn in her favor (registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by two to one). Snaking from Ventura County along the coast through Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo counties, the area is called by some “The Ribbon of Shame.”
To boot, Watson is also running against two self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, libertarian Darrell N. Stafford and independent John Hager, who may siphon votes from the candidate.
“If I didn’t think I could win, I wouldn’t waste my energies,” Watson stated. “I’m not jumping on a grenade. I’m going to win this race. The people of this country are furious at what is happening to our country and our children, and Rep. Capps is part of the problem. She is someone who votes almost 100 percent of the time with her party. She’s out of touch with the economic realities we have in our district. She’s become a creature of Washington, and I think people have had enough of that.”
For more information about Watson and his campaign, visit watson4congress.com.