Rep. Salud Carbajal back from Washington, D.C.
Caitlin Fitch

UGLY CAPITOL PALL: In Washington, D.C., Representative Salud Carbajal may be one of the first-year congressional princelings, but here in Santa Barbara last week, he got a surprise smack on the head with a post-Fiesta cascarón.

Carbajal good-naturedly brushed the confetti off his neatly tailored dark suit and laughed with cascarón-wielding Nick Welsh, Santa Barbara Independent reporter. Just no respect. If you want love, get a dog.

But at least he’s away from the ugly pall over the Capitol spewed by President Trump. How does it affect life in Congress? I asked. “You can’t avoid being affected, whether you’re in Congress or just in everyday American life,” Carbajal said.

He’s outspokenly disgusted with Trump’s refusal to strongly denounce recent violence by neo-nazis and right-wing bullies.

“If anything, he’s incited violence. What kind of a president do we have?”

Carbajal was mentioned in a recent issue of Mother Jones magazine, which profiled his housemate, Representative Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, who has undertaken what political experts deem political suicide: an attempt to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz. In the first place, the magazine points out that Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since who can remember?

“Cruz is almost cartoonishly disliked in D.C. by members of both parties, in part because of the perception that he has been running for president since he got to the Senate, if not the 12th grade,” Mother Jones cracked.

How unpopular is Cruz? According to the article, fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham once joked, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” ​ Still, Texas is Texas and a one-party state, and as much as people like the third-term Irish-American O’Rourke, it still looks like a suicide mission. But Carbajal is optimistic. “If there’s a chance, this is it.”

He scraped the last bit of cheese from his plate at Jeannine’s and got up to go. “There’s no good Mexican food in Washington ​— ​at least that I have found.”

He gets home most weekends. “I have a very small bedroom” back in D.C., he said. There’s a very small closet. The headboard is against one wall, and the foot of the bed touches the other wall, he said.

Carbajal, former county 1st District supervisor elected to Congress in 2016, was about to take off for a rally of protesters urging Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to allow further oil drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel or developments in the Carrizo Plain.

Trump has singled out those and other federal lands for “review.” In other words, they’re in great jeopardy.

What frustrates Carbajal is what he sees as “the lack of transparency” in a Republican-dominated Congress coupled with a GOP president. In an attempt to overcome this, he joined a 44-member​ problem-solving caucus with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Serving in a Congress that so often seems to the public to be snarled in partisan politics, he has to admit that “at times” it gets frustrating.

But he’s proud that 52 percent of bills he’s sponsored or cosponsored during his seven months in office have been bipartisan. And he’s well aware that the Republican National Committee has him on a special short list of Democrats it wants to knock off and is ready and more than willing to raise millions to do it.

Carbajal is also aware that he only has a razor-thin 3-4 percent margin of Democratic voters in the district. Maybe he can do something about transparency ​— ​and the Mexican food in D.C.

ON MY BEDSIDE TABLE: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma, recounts Killers of the Flower Moon. Oil, you know. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. David Grann tells a shocking true story. It’s also about a horribly bungled investigation and the birth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover.


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