Laura Capps knew that entering the race for District 1 Supervisor wouldn’t be a popular one.
She knew that some in the Democratic party wouldn’t agree with her challenging a Democratic incumbent.
And, maybe even just a decade ago, maybe she wouldn’t have.
But, one dramatic thing changed in her life — her son, Oscar.
“As someone that was born and raised here, and now someone that is raising her son here, I think we can do better,” Ms. Capps said.
As Oscar happily bounces a self-worn-out basketball behind her on a sunny Saturday morning, she peeks often behind her, but he’s perfectly fine. He bounces the ball to anyone that wants to catch it, trying to steal it back.
He wears a Giannis Antetokounmpo shirt — a bit out of place considering this is Lakers territory.
But he is unapologetic.
“I’ve been thinking about going for the Lakers, but I love Giannis,” Oscar said.
His ability to see things through a lens of love for the game and not particular colors is something that inspires Ms. Capps.
“My dad used to say that there is far more that unites us, than ever divides us,” Ms. Capps said.
“And even in the fever pitch of this campaign, it’s really important to remember that. We are all a team. That’s something I try to pass on to my son, and I think kids get that inherently. As adults, we have to back to what we knew inherently as children. We are in this together.”
As a single mother, Ms. Capps has simplified her outlook — both as a politician and parent.
“If we do right by our children, we’ll do right by everybody in this county. And that’s just a way to think about things that is very motivating, but also clarifying for me,” Ms. Capps said.
Ms. Capps is about as tried-and-true Santa Barbaran as one can get, attending Roosevelt Elementary, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High School — and she was student body president at all three.
“We have a strong sense of community here that I very much internalize. As a child, I didn’t know anything else,” Ms. Capps said.
The Capps name is synonymous with the South Coast, with her father, Walter, spending 30 years as a professor at UCSB, while her mother, Lois, worked with children as Laura grew up.
It wasn’t until Laura was in her 20s that both Walter and Lois became involved in politics.
Walter would be elected to the House of the Representatives in 1996, only to have a heart attack nine months into the job and lose his life.
A short time later, Laura would also lose her sister, Lisa.
But the draw of public service wasn’t lost on the family, as Lois would succeed Walter in office.
These dramatic life changes gave Laura a unique vision of what the American Dream is — and the feelings that can change over time when striving for it.
“The American Dream is the chance to be able to contribute in the specific ways that you can contribute best, for this country. And to provide for your family so that they can then the next generation can do the same,” Laura said.
“Certainly my life is very different than I thought it would be. The death of my sister and my dad, they were back to back in my 20s, it altered my life’s path irreparably. But it also made me far more compassionate, it made me who I am as a person. The dream hasn’t changed — the dream for me is family, being with my family. It has taken a different shape than I ever thought. What the dream looks like hasn’t changed, but what it feels like has.”
After years away serving on political campaigns and working for nonprofits in Washington, D.C., Oscar’s arrival forced Ms. Capps to think about where she wanted to be in life — and where she wanted to raise her son.
That answer was simple: Santa Barbara.
Moving back to town presented obstacles, both with employment and the financial wherewithal to be able to make it on the South Coast.
The former was taken care of when one of her nonprofits that she worked for allowed her to work remotely.
And the latter is an issue that she is taking head on in her race against Das Williams, particularly through affordable housing and the state of education.
As part of her campaign, she has pointed to a pair of proposals, including renter’s insurance instead of hefty security deposits, and then further education on the Earned Income Tax Credit, to help people afford to live on the South Coast.
“We are getting priced out here in the county, people are having to leave,” Capps said. “This race has allowed me to meet some of the most unique, innovative people, and there are so many solutions to be had if we worked together.”
Ms. Capps has also served as an elected official as the president of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Education, where she prides herself as a voice of the students, parents and teachers.
“In a sense I don’t work for the school district, I work for the students, work for the parents, work for the teachers, work for the staff — to make sure things are moving in the right direction, to provide that oversight,” Ms. Capps said. “It’s not my job to run the school district, it’s my job to be the voice of the community. I internalize that, I understand that now, I see that now. I see why we do have an elected body that is accountable to the voters, not accountable to a bureaucracy. That element of having elected officials accountable to the voters, to the people, is essential for progress.”
And, despite the outcome of this particular race, Ms. Capps knows that the education that Oscar has received will help pass down the importance of public service and standing up for what you believe in.
“He sees it in his grandma. He sees what we are trying to do here,” Ms. Capps said. “He sees the value in talking to people and knocking on doors.
“There will be a little bit of letdown when this is all over for him. But it will be his job someday to move it forward.”