“Do you want to get a bigger one, babe?” asked a woman to her partner, who was picking out a placard that read “Andy Caldwell US Congress 2020.”
The couple and 300 other individuals had just heard Andy Caldwell and his sponsors speak in the parking lot of Santa Maria’s Radisson Hotel. The attendees were going home after the gathering ended at 12:30 p.m., but not before grabbing placards to mark their turf.
The stage of the gathering was the back of a truck, in front of which early risers parked their lawn chairs around 11 a.m. Bonnie and Ed Applegate were two of the folks in their foldout chairs.
Mrs. Applegate told the News-Press that she heard Mr. Caldwell speak last month at a Federation of Republican Women event, and this time, she brought her husband.
“Andy .. .he is also an America-first person … not tethered by political needs,” said Mrs. Applegate.
Mr. Caldwell seems to have other things planned for the U.S. as well.
“I want to return our country to one country under God. I want to return our country to a country that’s indivisible,” Mr. Caldwell said on the makeshift stage. “I want to go back to the melting pot. I want to go back to promoting social and economic upward mobility for everybody.”
Supporting Mr. Caldwell were several other politicians, including Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and San Luis Obispo County 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton. The 24th Congressional District — the seat for which Mr. Caldwell is challenging incumbent Salud Carbajal — takes in both counties.
“I picked the speakers today because they reflect my values, who I am and because I respect who they are,” said Mr. Caldwell.
Mr. Lavagnino drew on his experience working with Mr. Carbajal to build the foundation of his speech.
“I’ve worked with Salud Carbajal,” said Mr. Lavagnino. “I spent six years with him … I got to be honest with you. I like him as a person. He’s a really nice guy, and I respect his service to this country. He’s a good family man.”
There’s been a change in Mr. Carbajal though, according to Mr. Lavagnino.
“Something happened to him when he went back to D.C. and how many times have seen this happen?” asked Mr. Lavagnino to the crowd. “We elect somebody that makes campaign promises. They go to D.C. and I don’t know what happens to them. … I want somebody that’s not going to change. And I know Andy Caldwell’s not going to change. … Andy’s doing it his way.”
Mr. Lavagnino also talked about Mr. Caldwell’s platform.
“We deserve somebody that when it comes down to a decision between a frog, a salamander or your job, he’s going to be with us,” said Mr. Lavagnino. The crowd chimed in with “Yes.”
“When it comes down to those guys that are working in the North County oil fields, are they going to keep being able to do their job? Yes!” said Mr. Lavagnino.
To transition to the next speaker, Mr. Lavagnino shared an anecdote.
“Folks, I just got back from a conference in San Francisco,” said Mr. Lavagnino. The crowd groaned as if they had rehearsed it.
“Let me tell you about what’s happening in this state. When you got to start keeping your eyes on the sidewalk to make sure you’re working your way around all the little landmines that are out there, if you know what I mean. This state’s going to heck and a hell hand basket,” said Mr. Lavagnino, referring to San Francisco’s public feces issue with increasing numbers of people sleeping along the streets.
Ms. Compton took the audience in a different direction.
“It’s a country where we have generous people and we take care of others and those that can’t take care of themselves,” said Ms. Compton, who also said “It’s a country where we’re free people, and we value that freedom.”
The crowd nodded their heads and seemed to agree.
The state’s biggest issues include homelessness, gas taxes, high living costs and crime rates, she said.
For crime rates, Ms. Compton pointed to “policies that are put in place that don’t punish the perpetrators but let them out early.”
Ms. Compton also shared her concern about socialism.
“I have two young teenagers, and I talk to them all the time. And we have a generation that thinks socialism is OK. And I think everybody here realizes that it’s not,” said Ms. Compton.
Mr. Caldwell agreed with Ms. Compton.
“Ronald Reagan warned us that freedom cannot be passed on through our DNA. Every generation has to fight for it and protect freedom or … it will go extinct. We are not witnessing the freedom extinction generation. They don’t even know what socialism is,” said Mr. Caldwell.
Mr. Caldwell taught the audience a one liner to talk about him as a candidate.
“Here’s the one line you got to remember. He’s the guy that’s running that’s not a socialist,” said Mr. Caldwell. “That’s pretty much where we’re at nowadays, isn’t it.”
The gathering’s attendees carried the placards back to their homes, but they also have the one liner at the tip of their tongues.