California Democrat Capps to retire

Rep. Lois CappsLois Ragnhild CappsDem lawmaker wants federal laws rewritten with gender neutral terms Dems pressure Fiat Chrysler to support recalled rental ban GOP chairman: Feds dropped the ball in Calif. oil spill MORE (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that she will not run for reelection next year, opening up a potential GOP target. 

Capps, now in her ninth term, didn't cite a specific reason guiding her retirement except a desire to spend more time in her Santa Barbara community.

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"I have been so humbled and honored that you would trust me to be your representative to Congress," Capps said in a video statement about her retirement. "But now, I believe it is time for me to return home back to the community and family that I love so much."

She was narrowly reelected in November, surviving a tough challenge from actor Christopher Mitchum (R), 52 to 48 percent. The seat leans Democratic, having gone for President Obama by 54 percent in 2012, and will have higher Democratic turnout in another presidential year. 

A 2008 poll conducted by the Washingtonian magazine named Capps the "nicest" lawmaker on Capitol Hill. 

"Her kindness and courage, leadership and wisdom have been tremendous assets to our Caucus and the Congress. Congresswoman Capps will be missed by colleagues, and friends, on both sides of the aisle," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

Capps first won a special election to her seat in 1998 to replace her husband, Walter, who died of a heart attack less than a year into his first term.

Her successor could be another member of the Capps family. Capps's daughter, Laura — who is married to former Obama administration official Bill Burton — is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate. Laura Burton Capps previously worked as a speechwriter in the Clinton White House and as the Iowa press secretary when now-Secretary of State John Kerry ran for president in the 2004 campaign.

Other possible Democratic contenders include Salud Carbajal, a member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

Republicans, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the seat would be in play again. 

“The 24th District has been competitive for multiple cycles and instantly becomes a more likely pick up opportunity for Republicans in 2016 with Lois Capps’ retirement," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Zach Hunter said in a statement. 

Republicans who might launch candidacies include Santa Barbara City Councilman Dale Francisco and Katcho Achadjian, a member of the California state assembly.

— This post was updated at 2:22 p.m.