Chris Mitchum loses race to Lois Capps. Campaign refused to raise Morua-DUI-manslaughter issue

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News & Analysis By Peter Lance © November 5th, 2014. According the vote count from The California Secretary of State with 100% of precincts reporting, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) defeated Republican challenger Chris Mitchum by a margin of 51.6% to his 48.4% in the heavily fought race for the 24th congressional district. The San Luis Obispo Tribune called the race for Mrs. Capps just before midnight.

Mitchum who was neck and neck with Mrs. Capps going into the final days of the campaign, never played his trump card and raised a key issue that went to Mrs. Capps’ integrity: her failure to comment on the scandal in which her District Director Mollie Culver forged V.A. forms in the days immediately following District Rep. Raymond Morua’s DUI hit-an-run crash December 3rd, 2013 which took the life of 27 year-old UCSB graduate Mallory Rae Dies.

That apparent effort at damage control, first reported on this website and in The Santa Barbara News-Press in April had prompted an investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI in June, but the short-lived probe never gained traction after former Central District U.S. Attorney André J. Birotte, who had referred the News-Press series to The Public Integrity Section of Justice in Washington, was appointed by President Obama to a federal judgeship. Mr. Birotte was later confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Instead, right up to election day Mitchum’s website focused only on the alleged deceptive ad the Capps campaign ran, with Mrs. Capps approval in which they cut one of the GOP challenger’s lines in a commercial that made it look like he wasn’t interested in representing the district if he went to D.C. See coverage from FoxNews.com,  The U.K. Mail and CalCoastNews.com, which considered the Capps-Morua issue so important that they featured it in a story run just hours before the polls closed November 4th.

In her piece headlined “Election Day: The Races to Watch,” editor Karen Velie, reported:

“Recent polls show Rep. Lois Capps in a close race with her Republican challenger Chris Mitchum. Capps has easily held the seat for 16 years. However, because of redistricting, Capps alleged coverup of a fatal DUI and her close ties to Gibson and Hill, Capps’ Congressional seat is no longer a sure-fire win.”

That paragraph contained a hot link to the five-part series. Similarly, FoxNews.com’s story on the deceptive ad by Alana Wise contained a link to a previous FoxNews story on the FBI investigation which was prompted by the series “Death On The American Riviera.

“Polling suggests that the election in the typically Democratic district will be surprisingly tight—numbers from Problosky Research show Mitchum with a narrow lead over Capps, 41.5-40.8 percent. Capps, meanwhile, also has been dealing with a controversy this year, involving an aide who struck and killed a young woman in Santa Barbara with his car last December.” 

The FBI-DOJ investigation was also reported on by The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times in June. But the Mitchum For Congress website failed to mention it, emphasizing the alleged deceptive ad.

Sources close to the Mitchum campaign said that the Republican challenger’s advisors had suggested he avoid the FBI investigation so as not to appear to “go negative”  in his campaign.

Considering the tactics of the Capps campaign which later pulled the ad, the decision by Mitchum’s staff to focus only on that issue and ignore the Morua-DUI scandal, may have squandered any chance that the 71-year-old actor had in unseating the eight-term 76-year-old representative who will now go on to a nine term in congress.

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