A longtime conservative radio host and government watchdog is taking on a two-term Democratic incumbent who prides himself on civility in a race to serve the 24th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Republican challenger Andy Caldwell differ on health care, wildfire prevention, the role of government, Donald Trump and virtually everything else.
The two Santa Barbara County powerhouses and candidate Kenneth Young, who has no party preference, are vying to represent a district that covers a strip of western Ventura County, including part of the city Ventura as well as all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Voters will decide March 3 who will advance to the November election.
The numbers seem to favor Carbajal. In a district where registered Democrats outpace Republicans, he won his last Congressional election in a 59% to 41% decision over the GOP’s Justin Fareed.
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Financial reports for 2019 show the $1.2 million raised by the incumbent last year is nearly three times the $418,477 raised by Caldwell, though the Republican noted he joined the race late.
A clear choice?
Caldwell contends Carbajal embodies the Democratic Party’s shift to the far left and pursuit of more government control over health care, the environment and the economy.
“My wife (Linda) and a bunch of other leaders in the region thought I was the only person who could beat Salud,” he said. “And we need to beat Salud… He’s doing nothing for us. He’s just going back there and doing the party business.”
Carbajal challenges Caldwell’s allegations and asserts his opponent’s positions give voters a clear choice.
“You couldn’t have a more contrasting difference,” he said.
Carbajal served 12 years as a Santa Barbara County supervisor before winning the congressional seat previously held by Lois Capps. He rejects Caldwell’s characterization of him as a partisan by noting that more of half of his bills have been bipartisan.
He said priorities in Congress include building on the Affordable Care Act as well as lowering prescription drug costs and health insurance premiums. He cited the importance of climate change and prohibiting future offshore drilling.
Expressing his focus on protecting and building civility in government, Carbajal said neither his opponent nor President Donald Trump share that commitment.
“My opponent is a supporter of Mr. Trump,” he said. “It is clear he is aligned with those values of this administration.”
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Carbajal endorsed two Democratic presidential candidates, Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris, who have dropped out of the race. His campaign said he is not planning on making another endorsement but will vote for whoever emerges as the nominee.
Caldwell said he has issues with both parties but believes Trump’s “heart is in the right place.” He contended Carbajal’s decision not to offer an endorsement reflects his opponent’s fear of alienating voters.
“It’s not about leading, its not about serving. It’s about getting re-elected, Caldwell said of the incumbent.
Who is challenger Andy Caldwell?
Caldwell, of Nipomo, is a one-time Democrat who said the party deserted him decades ago. He helped start the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business organization in Santa Barbara County nearly 30 years ago and serves as its executive director. He advocates for better paying jobs, affordable housing, lower taxes and less government regulation.
For some 25 years, he has hosted his own radio interview show for two hours daily. Its website bills it as a “voice of reason.” He has also long delivered his opinions in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria newspapers, having written some 2,000 op-ed pieces over the years.
“I’m not a partisan or a party hack,” he said. “I want comprehensive solutions to the issues facing us.”
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He said he will fight efforts to eliminate private health insurance.
“Medicare for all is a socialist takeover of all health care,” he said, contending such control is the goal of what he calls the radical far left. “It’s government control of our entire economy that they’re pushing for in the name of fairness or equality or saving the planet.
Who is Kenneth Young?
Candidate Young was born in Ventura, lives in Santa Barbara and makes his living as a civil engineer.
He said the biggest issue is working toward energy independence, also emphasizing the importance of finding federal funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Health care is on his list too.
“The United States is the world leader in medical research, but we are nowhere close to that in preventive medicine,” he said. “I would find ways to incentivize people to get annual checkups… find ways for people to get the health care they need.”
Among the issues igniting sparks between Carbajal and Caldwell are the ways of reducing the chance of disasters like the Thomas Fire in December 2017 and the Montecito mudflows that killed 23 people the following month. Caldwell said the key is better managing the dead trees and other fuel in park lands and other forests.
He criticized a bill by Carbajal and Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris that would designate 250,000 miles in the Los Padres Forest and the Carrizo Plain as wilderness. He said such efforts treat forested land as almost holy and open the door to poor fuel management.
“Mother Nature is a natural-born killer,” Caldwell said. “His whole goal is protecting the forest. We need protection from the forest.”
The bill was passed by the House Wednesday and now heads to the Senate. Carbajal said the legislation provides for the government to take any actions necessary to control fire, insects and disease and includes language emphasizing that it would not limit fire management funding.
“Mr. Caldwell should first read the legislation,” he said. “Because he’s fabricating things, outright fabricating things.”
City of residence: Santa Barbara
Education: Master’s degree, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara
Party affiliation: Democrat
City of residence: Nipomo
Occupation: Executive director of COLAB Santa Barbara County
Education: Bachelor’s degree, UC San Diego
Party affiliation: Republican
City of residence: Santa Barbara
Occupation: Civil engineer
Education: Master’s degree, San Jose State University
Party affiliation: Independent
Tom Kisken covers health care and other news for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at [email protected] or 805-437-0255.
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