Politics sometimes requires us to pick the lesser of two evils. Very often we go into the voting booth and hold our nose because, while one candidate seems especially bad, the other is not as especially bad. In this race for Congress, I am unambiguously in support of my friend, Andy Caldwell.
It’s not because I don’t like Rep. Salud Carbajal. In fact, I like Salud.
Salud Carbajal is a dedicated public servant, who I believe has his heart in the right place when it comes to wanting to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, Salud’s best efforts aren’t good enough during the turbulent and very complicated times in which we are living right now.
While I believe the world has never been better, smarter, safer or more accepting of new ideas, and more accommodating of new technologies and innovations, still, geopolitically and domestically, our challenges are real and they are many.
I first met Andy Caldwell back in January 1996 when I allowed myself to be talked into running for county supervisor against Naomi Schwartz. Coincidentally, Naomi’s chief of staff was Salud Carbajal. And because my consultant recognized that he was dealing with a political neophyte who didn’t even know where the County Administration Building was (that’s a true story), he put together a list of the people that I absolutely must meet with to get up to speed on county issues.
On that list included some political heavyweights including the late Bob Kallman, Jan Evans, Mike Stoker and others. At the very top of the list was Andy Caldwell.
Andy and I met at the McDonald’s on Milpas Street because, as was typical of Andy, he had been working his tail off all day and hardly had time to eat. So he talked me into meeting him at McDonald’s so that he could wolf down his food and get back to the Board of Supervisors meeting. What I’ve come to know very well over these many years is that Andy really loves McDonald’s.
Between his fries and a bite of his Big Mac, and after long sips of his Diet Coke, Andy proceeded to tell me everything I could possibly want to know about Santa Barbara County government, and the politics that were shaping the discussions and the issues and the political races from Carpinteria to Guadalupe.
Andy’s understanding of this stuff was encyclopedic. He knew the names and the dates and the details of every important issue going on in the county. His level and depth of understanding as to how these issues intersected and mattered to ordinary regular working people, of which I considered myself to be, was quite impressive to say the least.
Andy became my friend that day. And the reason he became my friend is because even though he knew better than anybody, perhaps even better than myself, that I had no chance of winning in that race, he still took the time and talked to me as though I was the front-runner. His enthusiasm, his encouragement, his advice and his wise counsel were different than I was getting from anyone else at the time. And, perhaps in many ways, that remains true even today.
Andy cares about countywide issues because he cares about families throughout Santa Barbara County. He wants the successful to continue to succeed, but he especially wants those who are being left out of the American Dream to be given an opportunity to put their foot on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, so that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, they will live the type of life that so many of us take for granted.
As Andy and I got to know each other better, I learned some things about him that sets him apart from so many people — too many people, especially in politics. And that is Andy’s incredible sense of humor and quick wit. Believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of some of Andy’s one-liners. But what I know to be true about Andy is he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. I know there are some people who might take issue with that statement, based on Andy’s edgy rhetoric, but as somebody who knows him as well as anyone, he really doesn’t.
Andy Caldwell cares about working families. Andy cares about their economic condition, and he also cares about their spiritual condition. He probably missed his calling as a pastor. Ministering to broken people and helping them pick up the pieces of their lives comes naturally to Andy. I can speak from experience when I say he did that for me.
So let me declare this as unequivocally as I can: I am 100% behind Andy Caldwell, because I can’t imagine anybody running for this important office, or any other office for that matter, who would bring better values or work ethic, or do a better job for the people, for small businesses, for working families and, ultimately, for the taxpayers.
So I urge you to get out there on Tuesday and pull the lever for my friend, my mentor and, without a doubt, one of the most important people I’ve ever met, Andy Caldwell.
The author is director of public affairs for the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association.