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If you want to know who’s behind the latest Casey Lucius ads, you’ll have to learn to listen fast. A man’s voice comes on at the end and says something but it’s faster than those spoofs of the disclaimers that go at the end of pharmaceutical ads.

Fortunately, you can go to You Tube and see the written attribution at the bottom of the screen. It’s the American Freedom Builders Action Network, one of those dark-money political action committees, the type that doesn’t bother telling folks where its money came from. Click on it but make sure you listen all the way to the end. That’s where the fun part is.

The AFBAC is the creation of Joel Riter, an East Coast political operative who generally sends the group’s money to candidates more conservative than Lucius. If you’ve been asleep for a few months now, you might not know that she’s the Republican from Pacific Grove who is running for Congress against heavy favorite Jimmy Panetta, the Democrat.

Lucius, as the new TV ad tells us, isn’t your standard GOP flag waver in that she is pro choice and supports “wedding rights,” which I assume means laws allowing same sex marriages. I put in a call to Riter asking why he is supporting a longshot candidate who proudly strays from the party line, but I haven’t heard back from him. He’s not very press friendly.

The most interesting part of the ad itself, for me at least, is where the narrator says Lucius would be the first woman elected to Congress from the Central Coast and is a proponent of equal treatment “but even so she is the target of sexist attacks.”

To illustrate that, the ad features a couple of lines from a Salinas Californian article: “Congressional candidate Lucius’ campaign hit with bullying, vandalism and sexism. A campaign sign in Hollister was spray-painted with ‘w—-‘ and other sexist and lewd comments.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of the “w—-.“ I guessed “witch” but Lucius told me I could learn more about it by checking out a recent Carmel Pine Cone article. The piece spelled out other instances of tampering with signs and vandalism to her car, and let me know the mystery word was “whore,” which fairly often runs intact even in family newspapers. The Pine Cone piece said Lucius also had been the recipient of highly offensive and threatening twitter comments.

By email, I asked Lucius if the ad was meant to suggest that Panetta is behind the sexist attacks. She didn’t reply to that except to refer me to the Pine Cone piece, which doesn’t assign any blame to Panetta.

Lucius asked whether I planned to write about political action committee contributions to the Panetta campaign. I said I would be glad to write about any from dark money organizations  if she knew of any. She hasn’t gotten back to me yet, but I’ll share what she says when she does.

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Congressional candidate Jimmy Panetta’s name recognition shouldn’t be used against him

I beg the indulgence of the Partisan’s legion of readers as I temporarily depart the realm of local happenings and drift into the national arena. It will be brief and it occurs mostly only so I can ask a question.

Robert Lucius of Pacific Grove, the spouse of congressional candidate Casey Lucius, was the author of a letter to the editor published in today’s Monterey Herald. He had two main points. The first was that he cannot support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The second was that the media have failed the public, mainly by not covering Clinton more critically.

He writes, “Clinton has also benefitted from media coverage, much of it fawning. Indeed, some have called out on her lifetime of self-serving political machinations and poor judgment, from ‘travel-gate’ to ‘email-gate,’ but she has also gotten countless free passes because of her family name and the aura of inevitability it provides.”

So here’s the question for Mr. Lucius. Please provide us a few examples of the “countless free passes.” I don’t expect a countless list. Just three or four examples will be fine. You can email them to me at calkinsroyal@gmail.com or you can just hit the comment button below and have at it.

OK, I promised to be brief, but before I go, one more point. It occurs to me that while Mr. Lucius was writing about Clinton, he may have had another political family in mind. That would be the Panettas, as in father Leon and son Jimmy, Casey Lucius’ opponent in the November election. A running theme in the Lucius campaign is the unfairness that results when one must campaign against a familiar name, a powerful presence, a potential dynasty. She told me recently that the local media is “afraid of the Panettas” and she offered at a recent campaign forum that Jimmy Panetta wouldn’t be the Democratic Party’s candidate if he was a Williams instead of a Panetta.

I get it. I truly do. Jimmy Panetta had an automatic advantage going into the race. Positive name recognition. His father is a remarkably popular fellow, having been the Central Coast’s congressman for years, a White House chief of staff, director of the CIA, defense secretary.

I completely understand why Ms. Lucius resents this, why she feels that no matter how qualified she is, no matter how hard she works, no matter what happens in the campaign, Jimmy is almost certain to win. No, it isn’t fair.

In her TV ads, she argues that voters shouldn’t support political dynasties and she implies, unfairly, that Jimmy Panetta wants to go to Washington to bask in his name recognition rather than accomplish anything. I say it’s time for her to give it a rest, and here’s why. A congressional race isn’t about fairness. Voters aren’t being asked to pick the candidate who works the hardest or comes off the most earnest. It’s about finding the right person to represent the people and the interests of the Central Coast in Washington. It’s about deciding who can be more effective in the political and bureaucratic jungle of the federal government.

I was at the Weekly’s most excellent debate this week between the congressional candidates, and I came away impressed by both. Lucius is well-spoken and is up on most issues, and she clearly is not intimidated by the Panetta presence. She stumbled by not knowing much of anything about methyl bromide and when she essentially endorsed Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who would eliminate most gun laws and environmental protections. But she is an accomplished young woman and an impressive young politician.

But Panetta more than stood his ground. He was fully conversant on every issue put to him, from Obamacare to immigration to national defense. He understood the broad issues and the details, the nitty gritty. He displayed his knowledge with every bit as much poise and confidence as Lucius and he seemed never to be fishing for the politically popular answer.

If this was a job application instead of an election, voters would be obliged to pick the applicant best qualified for the job and most likely to be able to execute it successfully. Washington is deluged every couple years by a flock of fledgling legislators, all eager to make a name for themselves on the national stage. An objective observer picking the applicant most likely to be effective would have to conclude that Panetta offers everything Lucius offers plus the name recognition and all that goes with it, factors that will open doors in Washington and make the Central Coast’s representative a key player from day one.

It isn’t about fairness. It has been conventional political wisdom on the Peninsula for several years now that Jimmy would replace Sam Farr in Congress. Lucius knew that when she asked for the chance to run. Perhaps people shouldn’t vote for Jimmy because he’s a Panetta, but it would be a bigger mistake to vote against him for the same reason.

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Casey Lucius gearing up for debate

Editor’s note: See modified section on Panetta’s opinion of Measure Z.

Republican congressional candidate Casey Lucius’ new campaign ad takes a big swing at opponent Jimmy Panetta, but she manages in the course of just a few seconds to drop the bat rather than launch a home run.

The TV spot has a dramatic opening with a narrator sounding an ominous tone. There’s a black-and-white photo of Panetta, without his characteristic smile. Tough words scroll across the screen.

“Washington is broken, because of people who want to be someone, not do something, because of a corrupt system based on who you know, not what you can do.”

The commercial uses two photos of Panetta. In the second, he looks kind of menacing, his image large against the Capitol in the background. At one point, the word “corrupt” goes from black to red.

It’s a provocative start. Then the bat slips out of Lucius’ hands. Black and white gives way to a nice color shot of the smiling candidate and her family and the thread of the commercial is lost.

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Jimmy Panetta, shown here leaning slightly to the left

Here’s how it goes from there:

“I’m Casey Lucius. I joined the Navy, earned a PhD and became a professor. This election cannot be about political connections and dynasties. This election is about opportunity. It is about believing in our country and our community. I haven’t been handed anything. I have worked hard. I want to work hard for you.”

It’s not a long piece, but by the time it’s over, the viewer is likely to have forgotten the ominous opening and is left with the Hallmark portion of the piece, “This election is about opportunity. It is about believing in our country and our community.”

If Lucius had followed up on the opening with some meat about how Panetta’s famous father (Leon, for those of you who moved here 20 minutes ago) had done the Central Coast wrong, which he didn’t, or how the Panetta family foundation was being used as a shakedown tool for the Democrats, which it isn’t, she might have had something. Instead, we’re mainly left with the impression that Lucius really, really wants to go to Congress and it would make her family really proud of her if that happened. What was that about corruption?

Not enough to swing my vote.

If I had been given the chance at Monday night’s debate between Panetta and Lucius, I might have asked Jimmy to compare his belief in our country and/or community to Lucius’ belief in same.

I hadn’t seen the commercial until after the debate and I’m guessing that neither had the other 250 or so souls who filled the Weekly’s juice bar and meeting space to get a closer look at the candidates. Regardless, the commercial created the biggest drama of the evening, particularly when Panetta gave it back to Lucius.

Said Lucius: “If this was Jimmy Williams sitting here, he wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Said Panetta: “That’s absolutely offensive to the 70 percent of the electorate who voted for me in the primary.” He went on about how his family name hadn’t helped him while serving in Afghanistan, or prosecuting criminals in Oakland.

In the primary, he said, “They didn’t vote for Panetta. They voted for Jimmy.”

She got a good hand for her opener and he got an equally good one for his closer.

It is absolutely true that Panetta began the race with a huge advantage. His father was a congressman forever and then he was the head of the CIA and Secretary of Defense. Somewhere in there, he became the best known and best liked political figure on the Central Coast, likely the most powerful person in the region.

To her credit, Lucius recognized the uphill nature of her task and she has worked hard. From a fairly modest station, the Pacific Grove City Council, she has attracted a substantial following of people impressed by her presence, her military background and her willingness to break with the Republican Party from time to time. Making that easier, of course, is that the GOP recognized early on that she has no chance against Panetta, who has worked at least as hard as she has in community affairs and civic door knocking over the past several years. Since the party hasn’t funneled any money into her treasury, she isn’t obliged to follow its script. She constantly makes the point that Panetta is getting help from the fat cats of Washington, D.C. She hasn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate how she would respond to similar circumstances.

Often, the candidates agreed on key points Monday. They both said they are opposed to Measure Z, the anti-fracking initiative on the November ballot. Panetta says he doesn’t believe fracking will ever occur here, so he doesn’t think the measure is needed to  prevent fracking in Monterey County. He said he fears it could have a negative impact on the oil industry. Lucius said pretty much the same thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Listening again to Panetta’s response via You Tube, the above needs to be amended. He said he would support Measure Z enthusiastically if he believed it was aimed solely at preventing fracking but he feels the need to delve more deeply into the measure’s fine points.

They agreed the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform and that Obamacare needs work.

They had different takes on the future of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, which is in charge of redeveloping the former Army base.

Lucius, who currently sits on the FORA board, said she sometimes finds it dysfunctional. She said the agency should be allowed to fold as scheduled in 2020. At that point, she said, the cities with pieces of the base should be allowed to develop the property as they wish, particularly if that wish is to create affordable housing.

Panetta said he didn’t believe the various cities were ready to accept the responsibility for the base cleanup and other complications that go along with redeveloping the land.

Panetta said he will vote for Hillary Clinton. Lucius said she was thinking about voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Panetta jumped in, saying that his opponent had said at a high school speech last week that she would vote for Johnson — despite his campaign promises to repeal all gun laws and environmental regulations.

Both candidates displayed a strong grasp of most of the issues of the evening. Lucius would spin it one way, saying a solution would be at hand if the Democrats would “reach across the aisle,” and Panetta would spin it the other, complaining that the GOP might as well be opposed to everything.

Lucius repeatedly criticized Clinton’s handling of Middle Eastern affairs and, in response to a question from the audience, said the president should be required to have served in the military. Panetta countered by noting that that would disqualify about 99 percent of the population.

Lucius said she opposes the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in California. Panetta, though he is a prosecutor, said he supports it. She said she supports the death penalty. He said he does not but he didn’t get the chance to elaborate.

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My focus in Tuesday’s state primary election, I confess, is on the presidential race.

It’s been captivating in the same way that a car crash, five-alarm fire or circus high-wire act is. You can’t avert your eyes, despite the underlying grotesquerie and potential for disaster unfolding before you.

Obviously, many people in Monterey County share my attentiveness to the races at the top of the tickets. Thousands turned out in the past two weeks in Salinas and Monterey to see Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders make campaign stops in their hard-fought race for the Democratic nomination.

I’m sure thousands — supporters and protesters alike — would have turned out if presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump had graced any our hometowns with one of his freestyle stump appearances.

But the federal office that will be solely decided by voters on the Central Coast will be the 20th District Seat in Congress being contested by leading candidates Democrat Jimmy Panetta and Republican Casey Lucius. The winner won’t be decided until November with a general election runoff between Panetta and Lucius.

Because of my interest in the presidential race, I wondered which of the candidates Panetta and Lucius voted for in Tuesday’s primary. It would seem a very important election for them, since it goes toward determining who will be in the White House should they enter the next Congress.

I put the question to Panetta and Lucius — via their campaign Twitter accounts — mid-morning Tuesday and wondered whether they would respond.

Lucius answered within 18 minutes. She said she voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the last candidates standing before Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee. Former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said this week he, too, voted for Kasich in the California primary.

Lucius, in a tweet, cited, “experience, moderate, real policy positions” as reasons she went for Kasich and not Trump or Ted Cruz.

I figure Panetta voted for Clinton since he warmly introduced her to the crowd a couple weeks ago at her Salinas rally at Hartnell College. And his father, Leon Panetta, served in Bill Clinton’s administration and with Hillary in President Obama’s cabinet. Those are nice potential allies for a would-be freshman congressman.

An hour later, I was still awaiting Panetta’s response on what I assumed would be his obvious choice. Perhaps he’s too busy Election Day to respond. Or doesn’t want to unnecessarily alienate any of those 7,000-plus Sanders supporters who turned out last week in Monterey.

I only hope he does what everyone should do today — vote for the candidates of your choice.

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Hand holding out a stack of money tied to the end of a stick for briberyBetween them, Central Coast congressional candidates Casey Lucius and Jimmy Panetta have raised more than $725,000 so far to propel their campaigns, thanks in no small part to the generosity of investment bankers.

Several donors identifying themselves as venture capitalists, fund managers or investment bankers made the maximum contribution of $5,400 to the candidates, with most favoring  Democrat Jimmy Panetta but several opting to help the Republican underdog, Lucius.

Under federal election rules, the maximum contribution from an individual is $2,700 but that individual can double up by writing one $2,700 check for the June primary election and another for the November general election.

The latest campaign disclosure forms also show that Panetta, son of former Congressman/CIA Director/Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, has raised $563,000 and is also receiving considerable help from the congressional crowd, including several members who worked with his father. They include Jim Costa, Tony Coelho, Steny Hoyer, Vic Fazio, Marty Russo, Bud Cramer, Dennis Cardoza and Zoe Lofgren as well as the lobbyist wife of former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Panetta, a prosecutor for the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, also picked up a fair measure of support from Monterey County’s budding marijuana industry. He received $1,420 from lawyer Jeff Gilles, whose firm specializes in representing marijuana interests, $1,500 from medical marijuana advocate Valentia Piccinini, $1,000 from commercial pot grower Mike Hackett and a contribution of free or discounted office space from Mike Bitar, who puts together investment syndicates for marijuana-related ventures.

(Incidentally, Bitar is a host of a fund-raising event tonight for Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Estrada Adobe, 470 Tyler St., Monterey.)

Attorney James Panetta in court on July 25, 2013. (Vern Fisher/Monterey County Herald)Panetta is the obvious favorite because of the Panetta name and the Democratic leanings of the 20th Congressional District, now represented by the retiring Sam Farr, D-Carmel. But Lucius, a Pacific Grove city councilwoman, has raised some $162,000, the most ever raised by a GOP candidate in the district, and has impressed a serious slice of the electorate with her knowledge of international affairs and defense matters.  She is a former professor of national security for the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School and other schools, a former naval intelligence officer and operations assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Hanoi.

Her largest contributions were $5,400 apiece from Tiburon investment banker Robert Hofeditz, venture capitalist Lloyd Alexander of San Francisco and Palo Alto asset manager Franklin P. Johnson of Palo Alto.

She received $2,700 from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, the California GOP’s biggest benefactor in recent years. Munger has contributed millions annually over the past several years, often targeting female and Latino candidates for help.

cbkmE29VAside from those contributions, Lucius has received mostly local money, including $2,000 from contractor Don Chapin, $1,000 from Margaret Duflock, who almost single-handedly financed the successful sheriff’s campaign of her son-in-law, Steve Bernal, and $500 from Salinas entrepreneur David Drew.

In addition to the investment bankers on the list, Panetta reported local contributions totaling $10,800 from the Antle farming family, $10,800 from the family of beer distributor George Couch, $10,000 from broadcasting executive David Benjamin and his wife, medical researcher Laurie Benjamin, and $8,100 from the Ted Balestreri family. He also picked up $500 from the girlfriend of local GOP stalwart Paul Bruno.

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The Partisan’s 2015 wish list, toward a better tomorrow

christmas tree lightA review of the Partisan’s posts of 2015 reveals that we did a reasonably good job of accentuating the positive and avoiding unnecessary criticism. In that spirit, we are taking this opportunity to distribute some presents of sorts with the barest amount of advice necessary to provide context.

City of Seaside: A gift bag filled with enough wisdom to realize that this horse-racing thing is never going to happen. You need to know this before you waste more time and money. It might have come to something if the centerpiece of this proposal was something other than a horse racing track, but that’s what it is. Horse racing was a dying enterprise even before the public started recognizing how many horses actually die at the tracks. On top of that, the location is wrong, the developers’ own financial forecasts don’t support the idea and the development team seems to think it can force it down the community’s throat.

Craig Malin: For the incoming Seaside city manager, a subscription to the Weekly and the Partisan because you’ve shown yourself to be a fan of good local journalism.

Sand City: Don’t be jealous about Seaside’s present. Here’s a box of reality for you, too. That hotel on the beach? It was a bureaucratic fluke that got the proposal this far but if you think the community is going to let you build a hotel on the sand, knowing what happens when buildings go up on the shore, you need to get out more.

City of Mared christmas backgroundrina: Your gift is a back brace to help continue to build a people-friendly community rather than a conglomeration of shopping centers and parking lots. Yes, people want restaurants in their commercial districts but the City Council can and should set standards. Time will prove the council right.

The City of King City: A whole new start.

Salinas Police Department: May the big shiny box behind the tree be filled with at least a few months of peace. The way your officers stepped up to contribute money for the 9-year-old abuse victim in the recent child homicide case was truly heartwarming. They deserve something other than crime scene after crime scene.

Jane Parker: Here’s hoping Santa brings you two new colleagues this year. Imagine a board trying to work together to serve the public! Yes, it sounds crazy, but we’ve all heard of Christmas miracles, right?

Dennis DonohuBirch forest in wintere: The former Salinas mayor won’t come right out and say he will run against Parker, though he’s already collecting campaign cash. Our gift is a simple reminder that to beat Parker, he’ll have to take loads of money from people he wouldn’t to have as neighbors. It’s about governance, Dennis, not commerce.

Pacific Grove: A city engineer who can figure out how to use the new hotel tax money to get the ancient sewer system fixed.

Carmel: A few dozen barbecue grills and a mural at the Post Office depicting the good old days of beach bonfires.

Sam Farr: Some fishing tackle.

Jimmy Panetta: A challenge from the left to keep you honest.

Casey Lucius: A professional campaign manager.

Monterey County Democratic Party: Leadership.

Monterey County Republican Party: New leadership.

Cal Am: A conscience.

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Monning to announce plans Tuesday

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State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, plans to announce his intentions regarding the congressional race at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Colton Hall in Monterey. No way to be certain, of course, but the expectation is that he will say that he will run for the seat now held by Sam Farr, also D-Carmel.

This is good news for voters who believe campaigns should be about issues. Already on the Democratic side of the primary ballot is prosecutor Jimmy Panetta, son of former Congressman Leon Panetta. Others are expected. On the Republican side there is Casey Lucius, a member of the Pacific Grove City Council, someone who had been expected to give Farr his first significant challenge in years.

Stay tuned.

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Lucius-2Since November 1976 — the year “Watergate Babies” were elected to Congress in droves — two Democrats have won victory after victory to represent the Central Coast of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties in the House of Representatives.

By November 2016, the undefeated streak put together by Leon Panetta and Sam Farr will have reached 40 years. During that time you could count the number of their “serious” opponents on one hand. A three-toed sloth could count the number of challengers who raked in any serious money from national Republican contributors without using every toe on one paw. The GOP hasn’t put in a lot of energy trying to wrest the decidedly Democrat-leaning district from the Democrats. Nor has the party put up carefully groomed candidates for the seat.

Which is why one local political pundit breathlessly heralded this week’s campaign announcement by first-term Pacific Grove Councilwoman Casey Lucius with the words “a possibly NOT insane GOP candidate” is in the race.

Lucius, a Navy veteran who left her job as a professor at the Naval War College in Monterey to run, certainly has the military background helpful for a GOP candidate to burnish one’s national security credentials. And her husband is a retired Marine to boot, now working for the — wait a minute — Humane Society.

Lucius, who campaigned for the Pacific Grove Council in 2012 by emphasizing the unmet needs of children and young parents, aimed for the same new-breed, next-generation approach in her opening salvo against Farr.

She said it is time for “new ideas and a new generation of solutions” and someone representing the Central Coast in Congress who is not bound “to follow partisan dictates.” Those are lofty sentiments. But given the lockstep partisan character of most national Republicans, it’s difficult to see Lucius doing much to shake up her party’s hard positions on climate science, abortion, health care, gun control, income disparity, voting rights, campaign finance or the likes.

Unknown-1That’s not to say Lucius isn’t trying to sound like a very different kind of Republican that voters in a traditional Democratic bastion might take a fancy to.

Lucius says she supports gay marriage, improving the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights under Roe vs. Wade, and is concerned about climate change. Of course, she also says she is for the Second Amendment, a simpler tax code and fewer government regulation, all tried-and-true GOP sound bites. She veered further from current GOP orthodoxy in remarks to Jeff Mitchell of the Salinas Californian. She condemned the “Citizen’s United” Supreme Court decision that unleashed an avalanche of campaign spending in the name of corporate free speech, and she said she and her family are longtime vegetarians.

I look forward to the reaction from Central Coast cattle ranchers, many of whom probably still have dusty Bush-Cheney bumper stickers on their pickups, to that news about Lucius’ dietary preferences.

To mount a serious challenge to Farr she’ll need a lot of money — at least $1 million, she estimates — and that kind of cash comes from the kind of people who like their candidates — Republican or Democrat — to hew close to the party line. Given her views on gay rights and abortion, I wonder how Lucius would even find a Republican presidential candidate to vote for among the current field.

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Which Rob Lowe? If the actor runs for Congress out of Santa Barbara, as some Republicans hope, he wouldn’t be the liberal Rob Lowe from The West Wing but instead would be the libertarian Rob Lowe from Montecito

Congressman Sam Farr, although he has made no noise about retiring, won’t be in Congress forever. And when he does exit, Central Coast residents can expect a crowded field of wannabe House members to throw their hats — though no one wears hats much any more — into the race.

There will be a throng, not unlike the two-round, special 1993 election that Farr won to succeed Leon Panetta, who left Congress to become President Clinton’s budget chief.

That year, Farr and 26 other candidates lined up in a wide-open primary field, which included 11 Democrats vying for their party nomination. Because of the district’s heavily Democratic makeup, Farr really won the seat by besting the 10 other Dems in the special primary.

Farr went on to beat Republican Bill McCampbell by 10 percentage points in the runoff election and has cruised to easy re-elections since. That likely will keep happening until Farr decides to hang it up — despite the flurry of publicity being enjoyed by first-term Pacific Grove Councilwoman Casey Lucius for merely thinking about taking on Farr under the GOP banner.

Central Coast residents can get a sense of how the political gusher will gush when Farr retires  — Jimmy Panneta, Bill Monning, how many others? — by looking down the coast toward Santa Barbara.

Longtime Democrat Rep. Lois Capps said this week she won’t run for re-election next year, and the number of possible candidates is already approaching the number of oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Capps’ 24th District is different than Farr’s 20th District. Democrats only hold a slight edge in the district that runs from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara. That makes the 2016 race even more wide open, for both Democrats and Republicans, than an open race in the 20th. Here’s an early take on what will be a very competitive race from Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee.

Absent from that list is one of the 24th’s most famous residents and current darling among some Republicans — actor Rob Lowe, who resides in Montecito. Though Lowe’s only political experience was as a fictional Democratic White House aide on the TV show “The West Wing,” some conservatives are hoping he runs next year for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer.

If Lowe decides to be the latest actor-turned-politician  in California, Lowe shouldn’t suffer for lack of name recognition. Until this month, he and several inferior alter egos were featured in a curious series of elitist TV commercials for DirecTV.

Lowe makes his bones on the libertarian side of the Republican tent. He’s for individualism over big government, except for big-ticket items, presumably like Pentagon budgets.

But he may have to convince voters he isn’t the Rob Lowe who peaked, not in high school like in the TV ads, but as Sam Seaborn, urbane and liberal policy wonk on “The West Wing.”

And, of course, there was the notorious video of Lowe having sex with two young women he met in an Atlanta club on the eve of the 1988 Democratic National Convention. With today’s GOP electorate, the sex tape may not mean as much as what Lowe was doing at the DNC — campaigning for eventual Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.

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