“My campaign is about the Country and the People. I’m not a party hack,” says Andy Caldwell. “I’ve been a Democrat half my life, and a Republican for half my life – but I am an American first.”
Caldwell is challenging Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) in California’s 24th congressional district on the Central Coast.
The 24th District was held by Incumbent Lois Capps (D) who did not seek re-election in 2016. Heading into the 2016 election, Ballotpedia rated this race as a race to watch. Salud Carbajal (D) defeated Justin Fareed (R) in the general election on November 8, 2016.
Who is Andy Caldwell?
Caldwell has worked for 28 years as the Executive Director of COLAB, the first and only Santa Barbara County coalition to bridge the gap between the Northern and Southern portions of our County, and successfully bring together organized labor, agriculture and business.
“I’ve spent the last 30 years fighting for greater liberty and opportunity for businesses and residents of the Central Coast,” Caldwell said in a California Globe interview. “Running for office has never been an ambition of mine, but I could not stand by while ambitious politicians tear our country apart or drag us into the nightmare of socialism. I’m not going to complain. I’m not going to protest. I’m not going to boycott. I’m going to fix problems. That is why I am running for Congress.”
“Fires, Floods and Fools”
Caldwell, who writes a weekly column for the Santa Barbara News-Press, said he has written many times on a column titled “Fires, Floods and Fools,” about the cycle of wildfires in California, and the inevitable mudslides and flooding after.
“Having written nearly 2,000 opinion columns in the course of my career, there is one particular subject that I have repeated over and over,” Caldwell said. “It has to do with the dangers and implications of wildland fires. I characterize these observations by way of the subject line “fires, floods and fools.”
Fire, of course, leads to the watershed being denuded which amps up the threat of flooding and mudslides in subsequent years – I want to break that cycle.”
Caldwell said his opponent Carbajal is instead writing legislation with Sen. Kamala Harris, to increase the protection of forests – even right after last year’s fires.
“Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would designate nearly 250,000 acres of public land in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument as wilderness,” Carbajal’s press release said.
“Democrats’ forest ‘protections’ are what got California into the wildfire cycle”
Andy Caldwell said Democrats’ forest “protections” are what got California into the wildfire cycle. “The only way to prevent catastrophe requires us to literally fight fire with fire, i.e. routinely employing prescribed burns to cut down on fuel as nothing else works,” Caldwell said. “Instead, we do the exact opposite, we protect fuel. Relatedly, the only way to deal with the resultant flood damage is by way of creating dams, reservoirs and debris basins, but that too is frowned on.”
“The state fighting its farmers”
Caldwell also discussed the impact of other policies such as moratoriums on planting new crops. “Gov. Gavin Newsom has identified 35 areas to go in and cut red tape, and do habitat restoration,” Caldwell said. He said restoration of habitat is important, but this isn’t addressing the very real problem of the state fighting its farmers. “Why don’t we choose abundance?” Caldwell asked. “The Romans figured out how to move water. Former Gov. Pat Brown did too,” Caldwell said. “The former’s governor’s water delivery system was planned for 80 million people in California.” But Brown’s son, California Gov. Jerry Brown (1975-1983, 2011-2018) halted finishing the plans, “and now we are squeezing out water for 40 million people in a system designed for 20 million… while the rest goes to habitat and fish.”
“I’ll fight to make water for farms and families the top priority, increase water storage to protect against droughts, and oppose needless water rationing that forces families and business to sacrifice while increasing the cost of water service.”
Caldwell on Homelessness
Caldwell is a pragmatist as well as compassionate about the homeless epidemic in California. “We must have compassion for people suffering from homelessness, but we also need to do something about the impact homelessness is having on our communities,” Caldwell said. “I will seek help for those willing to help themselves, while protecting our neighborhoods from associated negative impacts.” Caldwell noted that it is absolutely ridiculous to allow people who are suffering from severe mental illness and drug addiction to decide how they will live on the streets.
College Student Debt
Regarding the mounting college student debt, Caldwell said the average student loan debt per student is approximately $30,000. He talked about how the College of the Ozarks graduates students in four years without student loan debt. Known as “Hardwork U,” students work at the college all four years, alleviating the need to university employees. “Every student has a job, ” Caldwell said, “They mow the lawns, cook the food, clean – and every student graduates without debt.”
College of the Ozarks is a no-tuition college. Approximately seventy percent of the College’s revenue comes from gift income and earnings from endowment. “Too many kids are graduating with worthless degrees,” Caldwell said. “There should be truth-in-advertising about the job prospects of some of these degrees.”
“I do not support free college for everyone because nothing in life is truly free,” said Caldwell, the father of seven. “Taxpayers are already spending billions on public colleges and student financial aid, yet the cost of college continues to rise. We need to address the affordability of college before asking taxpayers to pay even more and we need school choice, including vocational education.”
Traffic and Infrastructure
On traffic and infrastructure issues in California, Caldwell says politicians are not spending the money when and where they need to. “Our roads and bridges are failing, while Congress spends its’ time on political fights. I’ll work to build new capacity in addition to maintaining and repairing our infrastructure in order to reduce gridlock and increase safety.”
Caldwell noted how the state has doubled its population, but the two main arteries – Interstate 5 and Highway 99 – have not been widened to accommodate more drivers. “We have a $400 million infrastructure deficit in just Santa Barbara County alone,” he said. “And Highway 101 was widened 20 years too late.”
“I like a guest workers program.”
Andy Caldwell is most concerned with California establishing a permanent underclass. “I like a guest workers program,” Caldwell said. And he wants an immigration program which requires conditions – “if they break the law they go back,” he said. “It’s not fair to people coming here legally or to taxpayers.”
Andy Caldwell also says “there is no such thing as a Democrat Socialist. Socialism is total control. If they can’t rule it, they want to ruin it.”
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