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TV Debate: Carbajal and Caldwell Clash on...Well, Everything


The bottom line takeaway on KEYT's congressional debate between Rep. Salud Carbajal and Republican challenger Andy Caldwell on Saturday came in the closing statement of the Democratic incumbent:


"You have a clear choice between the two of us," said Salud.


Talk about the understatement of the century.


In a civil but spirited -- to the extent such a thing is possible when the principals were 3,000 miles apart and participants scattered from Santa Maria to TV Hill - the candidates in the 24th Congressional District over 60 minutes answered 20 questions -- with sharp, ideological differences emerging on virtually on every one.


On issue after issue, from the Affordable Act, abortion rights, an automatic weapons ban, another federal pandemic bill (Salud's for, Andy's against), to expanded offshore oil drilling, nuclear power, Trump's tax cuts, lifting pandemic business restrictions (Andy's for, Salud's against), the rivals offered clear and direct answers that seemed to make impossible the chances that any voter could remain undecided after hearing from the two of them.


Carbajal appeared via the miracle of Zoom from Washington D.C., where he perched himself before a black and white print of the Capitol rotunda hanging on the wall of the hotel suite where he's been quarantined with Covid - very good optics; Caldwell stood before a black background in what he jokingly described to reporters before the debate as an "undisclosed location," featuring a friend's high-end audio equipment, probably in North County.


Caldwell was by far more aggressive throughout, accusing Carbajal of ducking earlier debates ("hiding from the constituency"); attacking him as a profligate liberal ("no solutions except tax and spend and spend and spend"); portraying him as an elitist ("Montecito-backed and UCSB-voted-in") and positioning him only slightly to the left of Karl Marx ("he's voted 95 percent of the time with AOC (left-wing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), a confessed socialist"); Carbajal kept smiling and repeatedly protesting that, "Mr. Caldwell is putting forth a lot of misinformation," at least until his closing statement, when he landed a couple of hard shots portraying Andy as an anti-feminist, anti-health care "lobbyist for the oil industry."


Under the smooth and skilled orchestration of KEYT moderator Scott Hennessee and the watchful eye of news director Jim Lemon, the event moved swiftly and steadily through inquiries sent in by viewers and posed consecutively by Lisa Andre of the Santa Ynez Valley News, in Santa Maria; Noozhawk's man on the scene Josh Molina in Goleta, and the Newsmakers National Desk, somewhere in the Wildland-Urban Interface.


There were no injuries.


You can watch the debate via KEYT by clicking on this link.


JR


Images: Moderator Hennessee, Carbajal, Caldwell; View from the Press Box - Salud gasbags while (L-R) Newsmakers' man on the scene, hungry for a snack, consumes his pen; moderator signals time's up for the candidate; Lisa Andre wins the Room Rater best background award; Andy awaits his next turn; Josh ponders his next move; Salud keeps gasbagging.

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