Listen: Santa Barbara businessman Justin Fareed discusses run for Congress
From the moment Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps announced her plans to retire at the end of this term, candidates looking to fill her spot began to announce their intentions to run.
KCBX is inviting each registered candidate onto Issues and Ideas in order to share their visions for the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, as well as a portion of Ventura County in the Los Padres National Forest.
Santa Barbara native Justin Fareed is one of two Republicans currently running for the seat and the only one who ran for it in 2014. In fact, he came very close to winning the primary, coming just a half a percentage point from challenger Chris Mitchum.
Fareed is currently the Vice President of a design and manufacturing company that specializes in sports medical devices. He has also served as a legislative aid for a Republican congressman from Kentucky.
Randol White: Welcome to “Issues and Ideas.”
Justin Fareed: Thank you so much, Randol, for having me on today.
RW: What did you learn during your previous run for the 24th district that you’d like to use this time around in order to improve your chances of winning the primary?
JF: Well, the goal every day is to always get better and to learn more about the job and everything that you intend to do and all the people that you intend to represent. I suppose when you start a campaign from scratch, five and a half months out, with no real political base or actual campaign structure or team, you have to learn as much as you can as you go forward both on the operation front of an organized campaign but you also, we made it a main tenet of our campaign to go out and meet with and talk to and with as many people as possible and so through the process you learn more and more about your district, your constituency. You learn how to run a more effective campaign and I think you can see that even now, relative to our last campaign—we’re actually further along today than we were at any point in our last campaign, so you learn a lot more about the issues, about the people, about what matters to the people. I’ve gotten so passionate about serving our constituency in my home town, in Washington, D.C. It’s been one heck of an experience and I’m very honored for an opportunity to be in this position.
RW: Because you came so close during the most recent primary, was it your plan all along to run this time around?
JF: No. I think anything you ever do in life, you have to fail to succeed and for me, I had no idea. I knew how I felt about what was going on in Washington, the dysfunction, the inability to actually set strategies and execute them for the common good of the people and the country, the lack of representation in specific Congressional districts. There was a lot of things that bothered meabout what I saw when I was serving under Congressman Ed Whitfield from Kentucky, and I thought that perhaps going out and having conversations with people, maybe a lot of people felt the same way and I found that they did. For me, I had no idea how that would turn out but I knew that the only way that you could was through the process and a lot of people got really excited and engaged in the process, yet people who had not necessarily been paying attention to politics and who all of a sudden wanted to be a part of it so a disenfranchised base of voters got active and involved and to me that yo me was one of the positives that came from it. But in retrospect and in reflection you have to think about whether this is the best thing for the district and so many people, hundreds of emails that I received from people, comments that I’d get when I was walking out in the community, people encouraging me to do it again, and of course, like I said, I’m very, very passionate and when you’re really trying to make a difference you have to recognize that it takes time and a lot of effort and growth and development. So by virtue of the fact that there were people who were so supportive, and I think you could see that by virtue of the endorsements that I’ve garnered and earned, the amount of contributors and volunteers that we already have within this campaign, we had to build out a potential exit strategy from Pro Band so that I could pursue this—
RW: Pro Band’s the company that you’re vice-president of.
JF: Yes, we manufacture and distribute sports medical devices. Our manufacturing facility’s at Carpenteria but we’re headquartered in Santa Barbara and we distribute throughout the United States and internationally, so pretty good for a business that started out of our garage.
RW: But was it the plan all along?
JF: No. My focus was in building our business and opening up new distribution channels and becoming a little bit more vertically integrated, but like I said, I’m very, very passionate about serving our constituents in Washington, D.C. I think we have some very good policy reforms that can make Congress a more functional institution that will have longterm implications on the direction that we’re heading in our country.
RW: Are there any policy reforms specifically that you’d like to address?
JF: There’s a number of them and we can address them today if you’d like. Some are more focused on the functionality of Congress and the federal government. I think if you look at Congress today it’s, they’re not held in very high esteem and regardless to what the majority is there, you know, we had a point in time where there was a full Democratic majority. Now it’s, both chambers are held by the Republicans, and yet still little is actually being done and I think you can attribute that to the functionality. You look at our national debt, for example. It’s nearly $18½ trillion in debt. That’s egregious, in my opinion. How are you ever going to pay for that and this is something that’s really going to affect the next generation in a very pronounced way, and it all comes back to budgeting, you know, for individuals, for myself, I can’t spend more than I take in. Our business, we do baseline budgeting, we try to project what we’ll be spending and how much we’ll be spending, but we lay a budget every single time and we never spend more than we take in. We make that budget, we meet payroll because that’s what we’re expected to do and I think it’s important that the folks in Washington, D.C. are held to that same standard that you and I are held to, Randol. And so while I was working up there I saw this budget process which, you know, you have what they call the authorizations and appropriations process, which kind of culminate within one short period of time so there’s very little oversight from Congress on where the money’s actually being spent. When people discuss doing things in a bipartisan way there’s not even room for discourse or dialogue on these things, on how they can improve the programs so they’re actually effective so they can integrate technology into them to reduce spending, make them more efficient. And so a proposal that I’ve put forward is going to a bi-annual budget, a two-year budget structure so for each Congress there’s one budget. This is something that a number of states actually have and budget on a biannual budget. One of the most solvent municipal governments in Santa Barbara, for example, like Goleta, for example, is on a biannual budget so this is not a novel concept, it’s something that’s worked at the local level, at the state level and it’s something that I think would dramatically improve the functionality of Congress, it will allow for there to be a bipartisan discussion on things, and in addition to that, to allow for improvement on things that they’re already using.
RW: Now 2016 will be a presidential election year, which typically brings the average age of the voter down. You are young and when it comes to serving in Congress, the average age of members serving currently in the House of Representatives is 57, so you are less than half their age. Why do you believe you’re ready to go to Washington now?
JF: I think any time anybody says they’re absolutely ready to go there and serve, I think they’re underestimating how difficult it’ll actually be. I’m very fortunate to have had the experience of working under the chairman of the Energy and Power subcommittee in Congress as a legislative assistant, so I actually assisted and worked on legislative stuff and helping to move it through both chambers of the House and Senate, so I actually do have, out of all the candidates, a good deal of experience in how to do the actual legislative process—
RW: The inner workings of Congress.
JF: Sure, and I guess if you see that you either want to run as far away from it as possible or you want to dive in headfirst to see what you can do and I think effectiveness is something that’s really important as well, that in combination with, I’ve been playing team sports my whole life, one thing I was very very passionate about doing as a kid and what my goal was, I had to play football at UCLA. You learn to work with people from all sorts of different backgrounds behind a common purpose and with that and a combination of growing up and I’ve been working since I was old enough to walk and my father invented several products for repetitive stress injuries, my mother went back to business school to learn how to run a business and from licking stamps, packing boxes, taking inventory in our garage we’ve now built a business with our family that has been very successful, so when you talk about having over 70,000 small businesses and family-owned businesses on the central coast, you know, I’m a third generation rancher. Agriculture is extremely important to me, water is a significant issue, but do I feel qualified, absolutely. I think that there is—and many other people do as well, there’s a number, as I said, of elected officials here, leaders within our community have endorsed and backed me as well. Members in the U.S. Senate and Congress have endorsed me as well and I also think one of the largest bodies that’s underrepresented, which is unique to my age, is the next generation of voters, so when you identify and look at every single policy that’s being created today, that, like I said, is going to have the most pronounced effect on the next generation, it’s the next generation of voters that are going to have to work with this so I think it’s important to have a voice that can represent a voting bloc that’s going to be the most prominent one in the next five years.
RW: Do you believe as a member of Congress there would be any down side to being in your twenties?
JF: I wouldn’t, and just by virtue, again, from my time working on policy up there, people want to get behind and work with people who have good ideas, and the ability to execute these ideas, and so again, I’m supported by several members of Congress and the ones that I know are hard workers, and there’s already a base of people, and they have what they call caucuses that you build, groups of representatives coming together behind a common purpose, a certain issue, and they’re bipartisan and so there’s actual infrastructure there if there is a certain specific issue that you want to deal with, it doesn’t discriminate based off of age, it’smore your aptitude and capacity and your ability to do the job. Our founding fathers, if you look at the Constitution, had three requirements, that you’re 25 years old, that you’re a resident of the state and that you get 50% plus one of the vote, so I certainly have two of the three and I’m working to get the third, which is the majority of the votes here and I’ll be working hard to earn the trust and support of the people throughout the central coast over the course of the next year.
RW: What are your views on oil exploration along the central coast and then delivery of that oil?
JF: Sure. And this is something extremely significant based off of what happened recently in Santa Barbara. This has to be done in a very safe and environmentally friendly fashion. We recently had an oil spill with the Plains All- American Pipeline down in Santa Barbara. In 2011 Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Act, with mandatory requirements that needed to be implemented through the Department of Transportation, which is an agency under the executive branch and to date I think less than a third of those mandates have actually been enforced or implemented, which is I think a part of the reason why this actually happened and so it’s important that these things actually get implemented, that there is strict oversight. We need to have emergency shutoff valves. We have to make sure stuff like this does not happen. I grew up in Santa Barbara where we really do appreciate our beaches and those throughout the central coast, but there’s also a need for energy. So approaching this in a very safe and environmentally appropriate manner but also recognizing that there is a demand for energy and we need to continue exploring all opportunities as we move forward.
RW: Along the lines of transporting the oil, Philips 66 is proposing a rail spur to the company’s Santa Maria refinery, just west of Nipomo. Communities up and down the Southern Pacific rail line have expressed concern over an increase in oil trains. Most recently the San Luis Obispo County League of Women Voters has expressed concern as well. Can you share with us your thoughts on whether this project should move forward?
JF: Was that put before the Planning Commission?
RW: The Planning Commission will hear it as soon as the final EIR is released.
JF: I really need to take a look at the EIR before I could express any sort of opinion on that.
RW: PG&E is currently asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew its operating permits for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon power plant. Do you support studies that assert the plant is seismically safe or those who express concern over those very studies?
JF: I think it’s important to listen to both sides. I think again, the most important thing to note is that it is safe, that at the end of the day recognizing that nuclear energy is actually the cleanest energy you can have, from my understanding—
RW: In terms of what, like being carbon-free?
JF: Sure. But the most important thing is that it is safe and that’s the determination that we’ll have to make.
RW: Finally, as the vice president of a business on the central coast, what are your thoughts about the current minimum wage in California, and nationally?
JF: I’m a big believer that the private sector is the best driver for wage. I think right now with the regulatory burdens, the complexities within the tax code, it makes it very, very difficult, plus the number of other rules that have been implemented on top of small businesses it makes it very difficult to do business and to employ people and to grow your business. I think it’s very important, and this is another thing, when you talk about reform in Congress, there’s a number of rules and regulations that are being issued from the bureaucracies within the executive branch that I believe need to come back for review and see how it’s having an economic impact on certain communities and whether it’s actually worthwhile or not, and so that’s another reform that I would approach, and so again, I believe that the best way to improve the wage gap is through those types of efforts.
RW: Justin Fareed, candidate for the 24th Congressional District, thank you so much for being on “Issues and Ideas”. JF: Randol, I really appreciated you having me on and I’d like to come back any time. R: And you are listening to “Issues and Ideas,” on KCBX.