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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 2:01 am | Fair 45º


Lively 24th District Congressional Debate Heats Up at UC Santa Barbara

Affordable Care Act, Iran nuclear deal, campaign-finance reform among topics addressed by candidates

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider stands to make a point during a Thursday night debate among candidates for the 24th District seat in Congress.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider stands to make a point during a Thursday night debate among candidates for the 24th District seat in Congress. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Democrat William Ostrander, with his fiery, Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric, calls for universal health care and willingness to challenge Republican Justin Fareed, livened up a 24th Congressional District candidates forum Thursday night at UCSB.

When Fareed attempted to blame Democrats for passing the Affordable Health Care Act without a single Republican supporter, Ostrander jumped in and threw down the gauntlet.

"Things like that drive me insane," said Ostrander, standing up, with his voice booming. "That's nonsense. Don't give me that stuff."

Ostrander said that Republicans vowed from the beginning to fight President Obama's health reform so it's wrong to blame Democrats if they don't like the law. 

"What we really should have is what almost every other industrial country in the world has — universal healthcare," Ostrander shouted, prompting the crowd of millennials in the audience to cheer wildly. 

Thursday's forum was hosted by UCSB Lobby Corps. Nearly 200 people attended the event at Broida Hall.

Students were able to text their questions to the moderator, who selected some and asked the panel, which included Ostrander, Fareed, Democrat and First District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Republican and state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Democrat and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, the only female in the race.

Independent Steve Isakson and Democrat Jeff Oshins are also on the ballot, but neither is raising money or forming much of a campaign. 

Ostrander attempted to appeal to the UCSB crowd, some of whom carried "Students for Bernie" signs.

Carbajal frequently stated that he is "proud of my broad base of support," including backing from retiring congresswoman Lois Capps. Carbajal attempted to paint himself as a man who understands working-class people and values, and someone who would fight for the little guy in Washington.

Democrat William Ostrander livened up the 24th District candidates debate Thursday night with his defense of the Affordable Care Act.
Democrat William Ostrander livened up the 24th District candidates debate Thursday night with his defense of the Affordable Care Act. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Schneider cast herself as a mayor who knows how to get things done and a Washington D.C. outsider, trying to position herself away from Carbajal, who has racked up endorsements from the Democratic establishment, locally, statewide and nationally. 

Fareed mentioned that he was proud that he played football at UCLA and consistently criticized Congress for a lack of bipartisanship.

Achadjian was the most subdued of the candidates, touting his business record and vowing to work across party lines.

One of the most interesting questions of the night was when the panel was asked to identify one thing they agreed with Capps on and one thing they disagreed on.

Carbajal, who is endorsed by Capps, rattled off several things he agreed with her on, including her support of the Iran nuclear deal, but he failed to list one thing that he disagreed with her about.

Schneider and Achadjian said they disagreed with Capps on the Iran deal, while agreeing with her opposition to the Iraq war. 

"I'm not a 'yes-man,'" Schneider said. "I won't just vote for something because someone tells me to vote a certain way."

Ostrander said that he agrees with much of Capps' health-care legislation, but that he didn't back her resolution in support of Larry King.

Although Ostrander didn't elaborate, the only Larry King that Capps passed a resolution in support of was a 15-year-old who was shot dead in a reported hate crime in Oxnard in 2008

Fareed said members of Congress have their priorities wrong and tend to be more concerned about their re-election instead of the next generation."

"What we are seeing in Washington, D.C., is a one-size-fits-all form of bureaucracy.

Achadjian attempted to speak to the students in the room.

"I feel your pain," he said. "We need to make universities more affordable and accessible. You are the future. You are one-third of our population, but you are our entire future."

Carbajal, who has thousands of dollars of personal debt on three credit cards, and student loan debt, according to public records, said "it's a shame you can refinance your mortgage, but you can't refinance your college debt."

All of the candidates expressed a desire for campaign-finance reform, but Carbajal made no excuses for the fact that he has raised more than $1.2 million for his campaign.

"The rules are the rules, and we have to do everything we can to keep the seat blue," Carbajal said, referring to efforts to keep a Democrat in the spot. 

Schneider, who has raised about $440,000, grumbled that candidates have to raise at least $500,000 to be considered credible by Washington insiders. 

"It's insane that I have had to raise as much money as I've had to get the vote out," Schneider said.

Schneider said the campaign should be based on experience and knowledge.

"This campaign should be about the issues, not sound bites," Schneider said. 

On immigration, Achadjian said he is not in favor of amnesty for the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, but that he does support some sort of worker program. 

"I believe in securing our borders," he said. 

Carbajal said he immigrated into this country when he was 5 years old. He said he supports the Dream Act, and "it's a real travesty that Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, hasn't reached immigration reform."

Schneider said she doesn't like the "hateful" speech directed at illegal immigrants and the "demonization" of people based on their immigration status. 

Ostrander said we have 1 million to 2 million fewer illegal immigrants in the country today than we did when President Obama took office.

Ostrander, a farmer, said he has been in farming most of his life and "I have yet to see a Caucasian out there picking vegetables."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Seven candidates for the 24th District seat in Congress attended a debate Thursday night at UC Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Seven candidates for the 24th District seat in Congress attended a debate Thursday night at UC Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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