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Local News

In Race for Congress, Top Fundraiser Salud Carbajal Also Reports Piles of Personal Debt

First District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal is the top fundraiser in the campaign for the 24th Congressional District seat, the Democratic Party front runner and the likely endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party when delegates vote in San Jose on Sunday.

Congressional candidate Salud Carbajal’s financial disclosure forms report as much as $65,000 in credit-card debt. Click to view larger
Congressional candidate Salud Carbajal’s financial disclosure forms report as much as $65,000 in credit-card debt. (saludcarbajal.com photo)

The three-term veteran on the Board of Supervisors appears to be coasting to one of the top spots in the June 7 primary election. Only the top two vote-getters in the primary — regardless of party preference — move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

Competing with Carbajal are two fellow Democrats, San Luis Obispo County farmer William Ostrander and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, and two Republicans, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara businessman Justin Fareed

Legally mandated recent financial disclosures of the five candidates have focused attention not on Carbajal’s $1.2 million campaign war chest, but on his tens of thousands of dollars of personal debt. 

Carbajal has three credit cards, one of which has as much as $50,000 owed on it. Two other credit cards have as much as $15,000 debt on them. (Public disclosure laws only require candidates to show ranges of debt, not exact amounts).

He also has reported student loan debt in the range between $15,000 and $50,000.

Carbajal and his campaign adviser, Cory Black, dismiss questions about the debt, suggesting instead that it shows Carbajal is someone who understands the working-class challenges of everyday Americans.

“Many middle-class Americans are struggling,”​ Carbajal said in a statement. “I am running for Congress to fight for these working-class families because I personally understand that struggle.

“Like many families, there was a time I fell behind on paying my bills. However, my taxes have been paid in full, and I continue to be current on all of my financial obligations.”

Carbajal said his debt helps him identify with the community. He has had two tax liens placed on a property in 1994 and 1996, but Black said both liens have been paid off. 

“Many middle-class and working-class families on the Central Coast face similar struggles to make ends meet and to get ahead,” Carbajal said. “It is something I have lived, not just read about.”

He said his personal finances have nothing to do with how he manages public budgets.

“During my 12 years of service on the Board of Supervisors, we have vigilantly guarded our public finances and achieved the highest historical rainy-day reserve and the highest bond-credit rating for counties in the state,”​ he said.

Noozhawk reached Black in San Jose, where he was attending the California Democratic Party’s 2016 State Convention. Carbajal’s formal endorsement by the state party is on a routine consent agenda for Sunday morning, along with 75 other Democratic candidates for state and federal offices.

Black said the personal debt problems traced to Carbajal’s wife, Gina, being out of work for a couple of years. A nonprofit professional, Gina Carbajal currently is regional director of the Special Olympics’ Santa Barbara County Region. 

“They did what middle-class families do,” he said. “They used their credit card, borrowed from their retirement and kind of got through the recession.”

In the financial filings, Schneider, Carbajal’s closest Democratic challenger, reported no debt other than the mortgage on her house. Achadjian only showed mortgage debt for commercial and rental properties he owns, while Fareed and Ostrander listed no debts.

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.

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