By CHRISTIAN WHITTLE
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
In unofficial results from the 24th District, incumbent Rep. Salud Carbajal was ahead of challenger Andy Caldwell 54.97% to 40.76% with 52.97% of precincts reporting.
As results came in Tuesday night, Mr. Caldwell told the News-Press he considers himself and Mr. Carbajal to be neck-and-neck.
“I got into this race late, I’ve never run for office before, I’m running against a career politician who had probably three or four times as much money as I had, so I think we’re doing very well,” said Mr. Caldwell. “North County of Santa Barbara and the North County of SLO have not come in yet, and that’s where I will do better.”
Writing from Washington D.C., where Congress is now in session, Mr. Carbajal said they too were pleased with the results as of Tuesday night.
“With many Democrats holding their vote-by-mail ballots until the last moment to choose their preferred presidential candidate, our campaign is looking forward to seeing how these voters shape the race as ballots come in over the coming days,” read a statement from the Carbajal for Congress Campaign.
The race is the first challenge for Mr. Carbajal’s seat since he was elected in 2016 to replace Lois Capps, who represented the region in its various districts from 1998 until she announced her retirement from Congress in 2015.
Mr. Caldwell said he believes Tuesday’s results reflect that he is a viable challenger to Mr. Carbajal.
“I hope it reflects the fact they want better representation in Washington, D.C.,” said Mr. Caldwell.
“The person with the most money doesn’t necessarily win, and that’s gratifying.”
Mr. Caldwell is a long-time North County businessman, writer, and founder of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business. He was asked to run by Republicans in the District who felt that Rep. Carbajal, who was known as a moderate during his time on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, had adopted the talking points of the radical wing of the Democratic party.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Carbajal touted his bipartisan bona fides, pointing to the fact that of the bills that he co-sponsored last year, 52% were bipartisan efforts.
Mr. Carbajal is also a part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 congress members committed to working across the aisle, and has taken a civility pledge with his colleagues.
“It’s one thing to talk bipartisanship, but to actually walk the walk are two different things, and I think if you look at my record, I’ve walked the talk,” Mr. Carbajal told the News-Press.
Mr. Caldwell has been quick to counter that he has spent half of his life in both the Democratic and Republican parties, making him a bipartisan candidate.
“I am not running to represent party interests, I am running to represent this district in its entirety,” Mr. Caldwell told the News-Press in February.
The two candidates remain optimistic, and look forward to more results as the week continues.