Democrat Salud Carbajal will move forward as one of two candidates in the runoff for the 24th Congressional District seat in November, after securing the most votes in Tuesday’s primary in a field of nine contenders.
In unofficial returns Tuesday, Carbajal received 32.7 percent of the vote, while second place was difficult to call with Republicans Justin Fareed and Katcho Achadjian getting 20.5 percent to 18.9 percent, respectively.
Carbajal told The Tribune that he was grateful for the support he received and looked forward to “continue the conversation” leading up to the Nov. 8 general election. Asked about his chief Democratic rival, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider — whose campaign conceded earlier in the evening — Carbajal said he respects the fight she put up throughout the race.
“I’ve appreciated Mayor Schneider’s campaign,” said Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County supervisor. “One of the great things about democracy is it allows us to engage in conversations and debate about our ideas. I think I’m a better candidate because she was in the race.”
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In the state’s open primary, two candidates, regardless of political party, advance to the Nov. 8 general election. The 24th District includes all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as a slice of northern Ventura County.
The nine candidates running to succeed retiring nine-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Capps were: Achadjian, a three-term Republican state Assemblyman and former San Luis Obispo County supervisor; Carbajal, a three-term Santa Barbara County supervisor; Fareed, a Santa Barbara small businessman and political newcomer; San Luis Obispo financial adviser and Republican activist Matt Kokkonen; Atascadero engineer and No Party Preference candidate Steve Isakson; Democrat and Montecito design consultant Benjamin Lucas; San Luis Obispo farmer and Democratic activist William Ostrander; Schneider, the two-term mayor of Santa Barbara; and John Uebersax, a biostatistician from Morro Bay with no party preference.
Schneider was in fourth place with 14.4 percent, followed by Kokkonen at 5.3 percent, Ostrander at 5.5 percent, Isakson at 1.0 percent, Uebersax at 0.9 percent and Lucas at 0.7 percent.
Though the 24th Congressional District has long been a Democrat-leaning district, the district is far more politically diverse since boundaries were redrawn in 2010. Registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans by just 37 to 33 percent, and independent and decline-to-state voters account for 23 percent of registered voters.
With the possibility of a Republican winning in a long-held Democratic district, more than $4.5 million has poured into the race from individuals and unions to large political action committees, the latter of which have invested money in a blitz of television and radio ads and mass mailers.
Carbajal has long been assumed to be the frontrunner after winning a coveted endorsement from Capps and the California Democratic Party and reporting in the first round of financial disclosures raising a whopping $1.1 million.
Fareed followed close behind, and Achadjian and Schneider also raised respectable sums of campaign cash throughout the race.
In the six candidate debates held since January, the candidates initially split on issues mostly along party lines, but worked to draw sharp distinctions between each other as the race developed.
Among the top candidates, Fareed attempted through a series of television ads to paint main rival Achadjian as a “political insider” who had “been in office too long.” Achadjian did not directly address Fareed’s charges, but defended himself against ads funded by Democratic Party related PACs on behalf of Carbajal that painted Achadjian as not supportive of women’s rights.
In the Democratic race, frontrunners Carbajal and Schneider largely stuck to the issues in television and radio ads but in speeches and print media attacked each other’s records on local issues.