Rep. Lois Capps, who began her political career after her husband died in office and earned a reputation on Capitol Hill as one of Congress’s friendliest members, announced Wednesday she will not run for re-election.
In a video message, Capps said she plans to use her last 22 months in office to continue her work representing California’s Central Coast, which she has done since 1998.
“Now I believe it is time for me to return home, back to the community and family that I love so much,” she said. “And so I am announcing that this 114th Congress will be my last.”
Capps is known as a fierce advocate for issues that hit close to home — the environment and health care among them — but she has also been voted the “nicest” member of the House of Representatives since 2006, per Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best and Worst of Congress” surveys.
Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat who represents the California congressional district directly north of Capps’s, said in an interview Wednesday that Capps was among the best on Capitol Hill at fostering compromise among members of different ideologies.
Capps called Farr on Wednesday morning, he said, to tell him she was about to announce her retirement.
“I told her I’d support her in her decision, but it’s certainly going to be a loss,” he said. “I hope that whoever runs in her place will realize that it’s not the title they’re running for, it’s the ability to use the tool of Congress — the power of one person to fix things that are broken. She knew how to articulate what was broken and how to fix it.”
Demonstrating this capacity for bipartisanship, Capps made a well-known friend across the aisle in former Rep. Mary Bono from Southern California. Bono also entered Congress after the death of her husband, famed singer Sonny Bono, and said she developed a close friendship with Capps because of their shared hardship and California roots.
Bono, who is now a principal at FaegreBD Consulting in Washington, said she and Capps spent long committee sessions swapping texts and emails to help pass the time (and occasionally poking fun at the other party’s arguments).
“We never put politics between us, or disagreements over any issues,” Bono said. “We were able to talk about anything, whether it was policy or parenting or just the rigors of the job.”
Though there may be fewer close friendships between party rivals today, Capps wasn’t one to let ideology get in the way of personal relationships, Bono said. The pair often voted differently on bills that would affect California, but they shared information and arguments to make sure they both understood the facts.
“Congress is a living organism, and it moves on,” Bono said. “But Lois moving on, she will be missed because of her tone, and the decency, and her demeanor and niceness.”
Reach reporter Sean McMinn at [email protected] or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.