At a debate last Friday, Katcho Achadjian (left) and Justin Fareed, Republican congressional contenders, gave lukewarm responses about supporting Trump.
Paul Wellman

As some Santa Barbara Republicans prepare to campaign for the apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, 24th Congressional District candidates expressed less enthusiasm about the prospect of the billionaire as commander-in-chief.

Asked Friday at a debate hosted by KCRW and The Santa Barbara Independent whether or not he would support Trump now that the other Republican challengers have dropped out, Katcho Achadjian said he would support the nominee — “whoever that might be. … However, for the time being, we’re talking about Mr. Trump, but surprises are … ” Interjecting, moderator Jonathan Bastian of KCRW pressed him: “So you will support Donald Trump if he is … ”— and Achadjian said he would support Trump if he were the nominee. “It will be challenging times,” he added, “but I will be happy to work with him. I’ll teach him better.”

Republican Justin Fareed gave a lengthy response about the importance of a president who executes policies — not “suggestions” — created by Congress. “I think you’ve got to look at our options here. On either side of the aisle it’s, uh, uh, hard to find a word to describe it.”

Fareed continued to describe dysfunction in Congress when Bastian cut him off. “This is still a question about who you will support: Donald Trump or not,” he said. Fareed shot back, saying he had 54 seconds left to answer; tensions heightened between the two. Asked if he would campaign for Trump, Fareed said, “I am campaigning to represent the people of the Central Coast. Will I vote for him? Time will tell.”

Republican Matt Kokkonen, who was not at the debate, said in an email he would vote for Trump. He added, “I look forward to serving the people as their Congressional representative by specifically keeping Mr. Trump accountable for the things he has promised to do as president. Mr Trump has ignited the voters by speaking out what many are concerned about. Voters are angry with the current legislators who were voted in office only to cave in to Democrats on all issues and not having any spine with reducing government spending and taxes. Now Mr. Trump better hold the line and do what he promised.”

Republicans were once excited about the prospect California could matter in the primary election, but since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out last week, it remains to be seen if such enthusiasm will persevere.

“It’s not easy losing,” said former county supervisor Mike Stoker, who has been named a Trump delegate. “It’s not any easier than losing a real tight football game. There are going to be people who it takes time to move on … [like] any typical election cycle.” (Santa Maria City Councilmember Etta Waterfield and Republican Mary Jordan are also Trump delegates in the 24th Congressional District.)

Asked about recent support for Trump in Santa Barbara, Stoker said, “I’m hearing primarily locally … people are unifying around the idea that we have to beat Hillary Clinton.” He noted high-profile donors have put their support behind Trump as of last Wednesday. “That’s a pretty impressive sign of people moving to rally around Trump,” he said.

Tom Widroe — a lifelong Republican on the Central Coast and former political staffer — concurred. “I think people are excited,” he said. “We’ve got great candidates for Congress and supervisor,” he said, adding the enthusiasm certainly tops that in 2012. Asked if he prescribes to the notion that the rise of Trump is the fall of the Republican Party, Widroe dismissed it as “much ado about nothing.” Controversy and infighting in a party is not necessarily a bad thing, he argued. People are frustrated, he said. “People in power are failing; Democrats are failing.”

In Santa Barbara County, as of mid-April, 2,689 more Democrats registered to vote compared to 728 more Republicans who registered to vote since January, bringing the totals to 79,230 and 56,862, respectively. In San Luis Obispo, 2,341 more Democrats registered to vote and 1,608 more Republicans registered, making the totals 50,553 and 59,391, respectively. In Ventura (where a small portion of residents vote in the 24th Congressional District), 51 more Democrats and 20 fewer Republicans registered to vote since January. About 23 percent of voters in the entire district decline to state a party preference.

“If you look across the country, turnout is high on the Republican side,” Widroe added. “I don’t think Santa Barbara County will be any different.”


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