From the moment Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) announced her plans to retire at the end of this term, candidates looking to fill her spot began to announce their intentions to run.
Rep. Capps has held the seat since 1998, taking over for her late husband.
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.
Only one candidate has earned the endorsement of Rep. Capps and that’s Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the first in our series. The following is a transcript of the interview:
Randol White: Since you've received the endorsement of the sitting congresswoman, what issues of hers do you share most closely?
Salud Carbajal: I think Congresswoman Capps and I share a lot of the same values, and many of the same issues she has championed will be the same issues I will continue championing in Congress. Those issues are expanding opportunities for the middle class, making sure that the middle class continues to have opportunities where their children their families can live the American dream. We know any country that does not have a broad middle class lends itself to lose stability in chaos. It's really the middle class that are the backbone of our country, and we need to make sure that we're able to grow that. And what does that mean? It's means expanding good jobs, increasing the minimum wage. Can you believe the minimum wage is $7.25 at the federal level? It's astounding. Making sure we provide great opportunities, education opportunities, not only in enhancing our K-12 education system, but providing higher education access to as many Americans as possible.
RW: A recent study out of UCSB shows Santa Barbara county's improving economy has done little to help low-wage workers. In fact, the study was done as part of an effort to look at whether the local minimum wage should be raised as it has been done in other California cities including Los Angeles. Where would you like to see the minimum wage sit right now?
SC: I think at the minimum, in keeping with some of the proposals that have been passed, or have been considered in Washington, that's getting the minimum wage, to at the very least $12 an hour and plus. But I think that realistically, there's a confusion with minimum wage and what a living wage should be. When you have areas here on the Central Coast where our cost of living is pretty expensive, I think we really need to keep that in mind when we are promulgating legislation that raises the minimum wage so that it's legislation that keeps in mind the cost of living in areas like the Central Coast.
RW: Congresswoman Lois Capps has been passionate about restricting off-shore drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel. Do you share her desire to restrict oil production in this area?
SC: Absolutely. I think we've been steadfast along the Central Coast, especially in Santa Barbara county, to make sure that we don't allow enhanced oil development along our coast. We need to look no further than the recent Plains oil spill that reminds us of the perils of this industry. As much as there is value to the economy, I think the risks outweigh some of the benefits. We need to be cautious because not only is it potentially dangerous to the environment, but to our economy that we cherish in our area.
RW: Are there areas where you and the Congresswoman differ in terms of your platforms?
SC: I would have to go back and look at each and all of her specific positions, but I think for the most part we're very similar in the views and positions we have.
RW: So as more than a decade of serving on the county board of supervisors, can you cite times that you believe would be representative of your ability to cross parties and work with the other side, because the board is made up of a mix of Democrats and Republicans?
SC: I think you are touching on something that I'm very proud of in my service as a county supervisor. I've been able to work with all of my colleagues and have been able to work across the aisle with my Republican colleagues on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. I've teamed up with Supervisor Adam who represents the 4th district, Orcutt, to put forth a resolution urging Congress and the President to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. I've teamed up with Supervisor Sentinel from the 5th district, before he left public office, to pass health initiative to insure all our children in Santa Barbara County from 0 to 18-years-old, and he was a Republican and I'm a Democrat. Certainly I've teamed up with my current colleague Supervisor Lavagnino on a truancy program to make sure that we identity and intervene with children that are being truant in school, not just from a punitive standpoint, but really from an intervention standpoint where we find out, why are they not going to school? Why are they being truant? Is there challenges and crisis in the home? Family violence? Substance abuse? How can we get them the resources they need so they can be a stable family that allows the family to be productive and the entire can live that American dream we all want them to have?
RW: What's the key to making that bipartisan conversation work? Because in Congress you will certainly be faced with that and there's no way of knowing at this point who will be the majority in the House of Representatives at the time. But I've spoken with Congresswoman Capps in Washington about this very issue and it's not an easy one.
SC: Certainly it's not an easy one, but I hope the same approach that I've taken, collaborative approach and bipartisan approach, that I've taken on the Board of Supervisors, that it's the same approach I can take in Washington. I think it starts with relationships and mutual respect. I think when you lose that you lose everything. I think you need to be able to appreciate one another, enough that you're willing to break bread and spend some personal time with each other-- get coffee, be at a meal, be at a social event. And try to learn a little bit about each other. It's hard to dislike and not respect people that you know or have come to know. So I think it all starts with relationships and establishing a level of camaraderie and mutual respect. And I think then you're able to sift through the political polarization issues "de jour" of the day and really allow you to find that common ground that allows us to move the ball forward. So many of the these issues that the politics have paralyzed our county-- be it immigration reform, be it our transportation bill that needs to be funded long-term for our infrastructure, be it health services for everybody that needs health coverage. Whatever the issue might be, it's important that we work together to move the ball forward instead of just being part of this polarized, paralyzed Congress that we have come to really not appreciate.
RW: Supervisor Carbajal, I have a list of endorsements in front of me that you've handed me. I haven't personally confirmed all of these, but I assume that they're on the level and some of them I know to be true. Why do you believe so many of your fellow Democrats here on the Central Coast are putting their endorsement out so early for you? I mean, we're still more than a year, about a year and a half, away from the election.
SC: I think it's a number of factors. One, I think they truly believe that my track record of being an effective problem solver and working collaboratively and in a bipartisan fashion really provides the framework that's needed in Washington to be an effective voice and advocate for all the issues and residents and challenges that confront the Central Coast. I think they have heard of my vision. They understand what I would offer in trying to be the best representative for the Central Coast and I take great peace in knowing they have placed their confidence in my candidacy because they feel that I will be the best representative for the Central Coast in Washington.
RW: How will you connect with the voters in San Luis Obispo County to let them know that, while you're from the Santa Barbara Area, you will relate to their issues here as well?
SC: This is part of the entire 24th district, and as I have done in my ten years as a County Supervisor, throughout Santa Barbara County, I have been spending a lot of time in San Luis Obispo County and will continue to do so. Meeting with as many residents as possible, going to as many meetings, as many social events, as many public policy venues, and just hear from people. What keeps them up at night? What are issues that are important to them? And get their advice and counsel on what I should be focusing on. And also sharing with them my vision for being their representative in Washington. That's what I have been doing and that's what I'll continue to do. To make sure I'm being a good listener, hearing of all sorts of views from residents here on the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County.
RW: Certainly, water is an issue that is probably forefront on most people's minds because it' something they deal with daily. If this drought continues where do you see us going? What's the solution to keep agriculture going? To keep business going? To keep the tap at your house going?
SC: I think we need to look at all measures. We need to look at whatever water supplies exist, how we can be most judicious in conserving. Conserving is a major part, but how can we be more judicious in minimizing the use of the water on nonessential purposes such as watering lawns or what have you. I think we've been doing a pretty good job, but I think we need to do an even better job. We also need to look at water security. Looking at desalinization plants that I think are sprouting out throughout the state, and here on the Central Coast as well. But we need to do them in an environmentally sound fashion so that we don't further damage the environment, and we can provide yet an additional source of water. But you know desalinization plants, while they would provide us an additional source of water, they are also the most energy-consuming, environmentally detrimental sources of water that we could get water from. But nonetheless it's a tool, and we need to really keep that as part of our options available for everyone. Certainly the State of California has a role here with funding and support, the Federal government as well, but it is a dire situation and we need to treat it as a dire situation by implementing measures that give us that water security that our residents expect us to achieve for them.
RW: PG&E is currently asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew it's operating permits for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. As you know, the facility generates a lot of power for the region as well as money for the county and supplies about 1500 local jobs. At the same time, there is concern over the plant's seismic safety as well as the process of nuclear power generation in general. What is your position on Diablo Canyon?
SC: No doubt, Diablo Canyon has become a major economic engine for this area, and I think that needs to be recognized. I think what also needs to be recognized is that people expect and want to insure that Diablo Canyon Nuclear Facility is the safest it could be. So I think we need to try to achieve both of those goals. The facility is there and is a major economic engine for this area, but we also need to make sure it's the safest facility to ensure that during an earthquake it can withstand different sizes of earthquakes because nothing is more paramount than the safety of the residents of the Central Coast and San Luis Obispo.
RW: The race that you are in could become one of the most expensive representative races in California. As I understand, it might be the one to watch because it's a district that's pretty evenly balanced, so it's one the Republicans have not held for a long time and they'd like to see that seat flip. Money could come in that way. You've already raised a significant amount of money for your campaign this early on. Do you believe there's a point at which too much money gets spent in these races? Would you like to see some level of campaign reform? And on that same note, money coming in from PACs where you can't see where the money is truly coming from?
SC: Certainly, I am a proponent of campaign finance reform. I have signed a number of pledges. I think we do need to bring about campaign finance reform. That's extremely important and imperative that we do that. Certainly the Supreme Court has ruled in a way that has really opened up the floodgates for independent PACs, super PACs shall we call it, to spend almost as much money as they want to spend without any guidelines or what have you. So there's certainly much concern about money in politics, but until we're able to reach those reforms through the courts or through initiatives, I think that we have no choice but to deal with the system we have and it's unfortunate that it requires so much money to run effective campaigns-- grassroots campaigns where you're able to share your message to touch base with as many residents as possible to have them familiarize themselves with you, your message and what you stand for. But I have always been for campaign finance reform.
RW: Santa Barbara Supervisor, Salud Carbajal, a Democrat running to replace Lois Capps in November 2016. thank you so much for joining us.