A first challenger has emerged in next year’s campaign for the 20th Congressional District seat on the Central Coast. She is Casey Lucius, a member of the Pacific Grove City Council for three years and a candidate for the Republican nomination against veteran Democratic Congressman Sam Farr.
Lucius, who served in the U.S. Navy for seven years as an intelligence officer including duty in the Persian Gulf, was a professor for the past seven years at the Naval War College at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Her course on National Security Decision Making was taken by military officers from every branch of the service. She has also written several articles on this topic.
Lucius has a doctorate degree in political science from the University of Hawaii, a master’s in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School and a bachelor’s in political science from Ashland University in her native Ohio.
Lewis Leader (LL): You have been a member of the Pacific Grove City Council since being elected in 2012, you have now decided to run for Congress. Tell us how you reached that decision.
Casey Lucius (CL): Well actually it was several months of talking to friends and colleagues and my husband. And initially the discussion centered around National Security. That’s my background and that’s what I’ve been studying and the field I have been working in for 15 the past years. And generally it centered around discussions of the need to make National Security a priority in our country, and really ensure that America has a legitimate and powerful presence in the world.
LL: You come across as kind of a moderate Republican, how would you describe yourself?
CL: I describe myself as fiscally conservative and conservative on national security policy and defense, but on social issues including gay marriage, immigration, abortion, I’m more moderate or liberal. I guess I’d like to say, more open minded and practical on those issues; recognizing that society has evolved and I think the Republican party needs to evolve in some ways as well.
LL: You’re seeking the Republican nomination in a district that is heavily Democrat.
CL: Well when you just look at the numbers it doesn’t look very promising to be honest with you, and I realize that. But I also did a lot of research before making this decision and what I found is that when you combine the entire district of San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties it’s actually about 50/50. It’s 50% Democrats and then about 50% Republicans and Independents, and so my goal is to really reach those independent voters, those people who feel disenchanted with both parties, and are really looking for someone who is more moderate and someone who is practical and reasonable, and can work with people on both sides.
LL: Being a council person and running for congress, most people would say that’s a big step. Had you considered for running for the Board of Supervisors, State Assembly, or State Senate?
CL: I did consider them, but what I realized pretty quickly was that the issues that I’m most interested in and the area where I think I could contribute the most is at the national level. I am mostly interested in those issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy and national security, things like the national budget and the deficit.
LL: How would you differentiate yourself from Congressman Farr?
CL: One of the big differences will be in supporting small businesses. If you take a look at Mr. Farr’s record, one of the things you’ll notice consistently is that he has voted against every small business bill in the last five years. And I find that surprising because this is a district made up of small businesses. We don’t’ have large manufacturing here. We are a district of small businesses. And so I would do everything I can to support the small businesses in our area. Another area is support for our military and for defense, he has also voted against funding authorizations for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. Again, I think that needs to be a top priority in our country and our community. And then water. We haven't had a strong voice or strong leadership on the water issue and that’s probably the most important issue for residents of this district, and so I would really advocate for federal funding for water infrastructure for our district.
LL: Let’s let the listeners know more about you. You say, “it is not my resume or my professional experience that brings me to this decision,” which is to run for Congress. “It is my personal life story. This story involves growing up in a low income apartment in Ohio and wanting so badly to change the course of my future”. Why don’t you tell us more about your growing up and how that molded and developed you as a person.
CL: My parents are divorced, and my mom remarried a wonderful man named Ernie. And Ernie worked in a factory. My Mom was a secretary in the school district, and I watched them struggle. I watched them live paycheck to paycheck. And I remember going to the grocery store with my mom on Saturday mornings, and you know, she had a list and she stuck to the list and sometimes we got to the cash register and we had to put things back. And I just remember, even as a kid, thinking I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. You know, I want something more for my life. And I didn’t even know how to do that, but I knew that I needed to go to college. I knew that was at least the first step. I studied political science and I actually graduated in three years again because I couldn’t afford a fourth year. So I crunched as many classes as I could into three years. I waitressed, worked as a resident assistant, so that I could get free room and board, but we made it work. And again thanks to Ernie’s sacrifice and my mom’s sacrifice, I was able to graduate from college.
LL: And I see Ernie passed away not too many years ago?
CL: He did. Unexpectedly, he passed away when he was only 62 years old. And that was another reason that really motivated me to do this. Because in his death I realized what a gift he gave me when he helped me go to college, but in his death I also realized that life is short. And sometimes we want to wait for the circumstances to be perfect. We want to wait for somebody to say, ‘okay now is the time’. But I decided, I’m not going to wait. I am going to live my life.
About the Interviewer: Lewis Leader is a journalist who was a longtime newspaper reporter and editor for 27 years with various publications including the Monterey Herald, San Francisco Examiner, Toledo Blade and Los Angeles Times.