A former state assemblywoman and GOP party member, Andrea Seastrand won election to Congress by riding the momentum of the Republican “Contract with America” in 1994. During her brief tenure, Representative Seastrand participated in the enactment of that agenda before losing re–election in a campaign that became a referendum on the Republican–controlled Congress.
Andrea Seastrand was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 5, 1941. She graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1963. After college she moved to Salinas, California, and became an elementary school teacher. In 1965, she married Eric Seastrand, a stockbroker, and they raised two children: Kurt and Heidi. She left her teaching career to raise the children at home. Her husband, meanwhile, entered Republican politics and lost a 1978 bid for a U.S. House seat that encompassed portions of Los Angeles County and the cities of Burbank and Pasadena. In 1982 he was elected to the California assembly. During her husband’s political career, Andrea Seastrand joined the California Federation of Republican Women and eventually served as its president. She also worked on the presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. When Eric Seastrand died after a prolonged bout with cancer, Andrea Seastrand won election to the California assembly with 65 percent of the vote. As a member of the state legislature from 1990 to 1994, she served on the education committee and pushed for the creation of a commercial space port authority in California. Seastrand also served as one of three assistant Republican leaders, holding an organizational and managerial position with oversight of policy development.
In 1994, when California Republican Michael Huffington decided to forgo re–election to the House in order to run against incumbent U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Seastrand entered the Republican primary to fill the vacant seat. The district, newly apportioned in the early 1990s, encompassed the cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and San Luis Obispo north of Los Angeles. In the GOP primary, Seastrand defeated Santa Barbara Supervisor Mike Stoker, 59 to 36 percent, running on the GOP “Contract with America.” During the campaign, Seastrand declared, “I oppose higher taxes, period. Our national budget problems do not exist because we taxpayers send too little money to Washington, D.C. The problem is that politicians and special interest groups never run out of ways to spend our money.”1 As an advocate for smaller government and welfare reform, she maintained, “I believe our problems are generated in the federal government; it’s a full–grown monster and we keep feeding it.”2 In the general election, Seastrand faced Walter Capps, a theology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a political newcomer. Seastrand ran on a platform that opposed abortion, gun control, the provision of government aid and services to illegal immigrants, and extending certain rights and benefits, enjoyed by married couples, to homosexuals and domestic partners. In contrast, Capps supported these initiatives and he opposed the controversial Proposition 187 initiative, which would have banned education and welfare benefits to California’s large illegal–immigrant community.3 Seastrand carried the evenly divided district to defeat Capps, with a narrow 1,563–vote margin, 49.2 percent to 48.5 percent.
When Seastrand took her seat in the 104th Congress (1995–1997), she received assignments on the Science and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees. One of her first actions in Congress was to cosponsor the Senior Citizens’ Equity Act, an outgrowth of the “Contract with America,” which proposed raising the Social Security earnings limit to $30,000, repealing a 1993 tax increase on retirees, and offering tax breaks to promote the purchase of private long–term care insurance. She described Democratic charges that GOP policies were detrimental to seniors as “absurd scare tactics.”4 During her term, Seastrand voted with the Republican majority on legislation to balance the budget, cut taxes, and dismantle the welfare system. In a symbolic move, Seastrand and other House freshmen ended the perk of daily free ice delivery to Members’ offices, an expense–saving action which she portrayed as indicative of the GOP’s commitment to shrink the size of the federal government.5
In her 1996 rematch against Capps, Seastrand embraced the notion that the campaign was a referendum on the accomplishments of the GOP Congress and the “Contract with America.” Constituents were being asked to determine whether they were “to continue the philosophies of the 104th Congress, a new attitude of tightening the belt of Congress … or if we’re going to go back to the 40 years of looking to the federal government as the source of all solutions.”6 Capps countered that “Seastrand got tricked. She went to Washington and listened to [Speaker Newt] Gingrich. She can’t think independently. She does what he tells her to do. … I think she’s a tragic figure.” Seastrand bristled in reply, “to think that some ‘man’ in Washington was going to control my vote, that somehow I need a ‘man’ to give me marching orders” was insulting.7 Capps benefited from discontent with the GOP agenda and incumbent President William J. Clinton’s long coattails in the general election; Clinton carried California by 51 to 38 percent. Capps defeated Seastrand with a 10,000–vote margin, 48 percent to 44 percent.8 When Capps died unexpectedly later that year, Seastrand ruled out running as the GOP candidate in the special election.
After Congress, Seastrand returned to California. In 1997, she became the founder and executive director of the California Space and Technology Alliance (CSTA). In April 2001, the CSTA became the California Space Authority, a group again headed by Seastrand that promoted the state’s participation in commercial, civil, and national security space ventures.9 Seastrand resides in Grover Beach, California.
View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
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