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Caldwell v. Carbajal

Two County Heavyweights Square Off for Congress

Andy Caldwell has announced his intention to run against Salud Carbajal for the 24th Congressional District. | Credit: Paul Wellman File

For the past 26 years, Andy Caldwell has held down the right end of the political dial, espousing conservative viewpoints and delivering sharply barbed commentaries on local airwaves and in local newspapers, but mostly in front of the County Board of Supervisors as spokesperson in chief for the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business, or COLAB. Today, Caldwell delivered a missive confirming rumors that he will run for Congress against Democrat Salud Carbajal, the two-term incumbent.

The two clashed on occasion during the years Carbajal served as 1st District county supervisor and felt the need to rebut or object to Caldwell’s criticisms. Caldwell has never run for public office before, let alone held one. He has, however, functioned as combination cheerleader, gadfly, and ideological disciplinarian for the dwindling number of conservative Republicans able to secure public office throughout Santa Barbara County. Carbajal, by contrast, is the consummate political animal, a liberal Democrat endowed with a moderate sensibility. In a district that tilts distinctly Democratic — it includes both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties with a fingernail of Ventura thrown in — it would appear Carbajal’s race to lose.

Caldwell, a published columnist in the Santa Barbara News-Press who hosts a weekly radio show, is well known among those who track local politics and is a spirited, if on occasion outrageous, debater. The two will differ on a host of issues, the most obvious and immediate being oil development.

In Carbajal’s previous two elections, he ran against Republican Justin Fareed, who remains best known for campaign TV commercials showing him alternately riding a horse or running with a football. Fareed, a political novice, elicited little enthusiasm among the party faithful and lost handily both times.

Political insiders suspect Caldwell is running to keep Carbajal from enjoying a free ride to a third term and, more strategically, to keep Democrat campaign donations from focusing on two key local supervisorial races involving the 1st District (two Democrats appear to be facing off: Supervisor Das Williams and School Board Trustee Laura Capps) and the 3rd District (Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who is expected by pundits to face her previous opponent Bruce Porter). Caldwell vowed in his letter to COLAB members that he would continue the radio show and his News-Press columns. The former may prove legally problematic, however.

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