Congressmember Salud Carbajal likes to say he’ll meet with anyone, anytime, anywhere. This Monday morning he enjoyed about 45 minutes of quality coffee-sipping time with the national Republican Party strategist charged with engineering his political demise. “It was totally innocuous,” said Carbajal afterward. “It was all very innocent.”
Carbajal was referring to the get-together he had with Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers at the Montecito home of Karen Roberts and Brad Dyruff. Stivers also happens to be chair of the Republican National Congressional Committee (NRCC), whose job it is to cultivate viable Republican candidates and see to it they get elected. As such, Carbajal — a freshman Democrat in a district deemed potentially winnable by Republican Party operatives — is on Stivers’s hit list.
Carbajal said the meet-and-greet was orchestrated by Dyruff, who is a relative of Stivers. When asked about the content of the conversation, Carbajal said, “Kids, the community, and how we get our information on issues.” When asked if next year’s race came up — Republican Justin Fareed, whom Carbajal beat by 22,000 votes last November, has already begun raising money for another try — Carbajal said, “Zip. Nada. Nothing.” Stivers made news in recent weeks by distancing himself in unequivocal terms from President Donald Trump’s “very nice people” remark about some participants in the Charlottesville rally that resulted in the deaths of two officers and one counter-protestor.
NRCC spokesperson Chris Martin characterized the Carbajal-Stivers gathering as the outgrowth of “a family visit.” He noted that Stivers also met with Fareed during his time in Santa Barbara, whom Martin said was “mounting a strong campaign.” California’s 24th Congressional District, Martin said, was “a top target,” and that he looked forward “to providing Salud with an abundance of free time in 2019.”
He invited Carbajal, he said, in part because both Carbajal and Stivers share a bi-partisan itch. “People used to talk to each other more,” he said. “They don’t do that anymore.” As for the quality of the coffee served, Carbajal had one word. “Scrumptious.”