At 7 p.m. on Sunday night, Santa Barbara TV fans have dozens of great viewing choices:
"Ancient Aliens," "Evil Lives Here" and “The Simpsons,” are mighty tempting, not to mention “Yukon Vet,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “American Pickers.”
However, loyal Newsmakers, political junkies and undecided voters up and down the coast doubtless will tune into Cox Channel 1003 HD, where reliably civic-minded KEYT is set to produce the last best chance to check out the two candidates in the campaign for the 24th Congressional District as they go nose-to-nose in a live television debate.
Lock up the kids, Maude, Salud Carbajal and Justin Fareed are ready to rumble in a cage match rematch.
State of Play: Two years ago, Democrat Carbajal won the Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo counties seat after longtime Rep. Lois Capps retired, as he defeated Republican challenger Fareed, 53-to-47 percent.
Carbajal is favored for re-election, if for no other reason than that partisan voter registration favors Dems over the GOP, 39-to-31 percent, with 25 percent independent, No Party Preference voters and 5 percent signed up with smaller parties in the district.
No surprise, he’s also stomping his second-time rival in fundraising, as campaign finance reports filed at the end September show:
Salud with $2.5 million in contributions and $1.2 million cash on hand.
Justin with $1.2 million raised and, um, $170,306.65 in the bank.
The Fierce Fareed. Still, Justin has aggressively and energetically worked to knock off the incumbent, most notably with a series of incendiary TV ads and public statements linking Carbajal to the horrific rape and murder of Santa Maria resident Marilyn Pharis and Trump-like attacks invoking the spectre of felonious immigrants running amok among us.
Victor Martinez, an undocumented immigrant with a criminal history, was convicted in the Pharis case last summer and sentenced to life in prison. At the time, Fareed's campaign put forth this statement:
"Victor Martinez never should have been on the streets to torture this “gentle soul." Criminals like Martinez continue to be protected by the "sanctuary" policies and laws my opponent supported in 2014 (when county policy prevented local law enforcement from honoring an ICE detainer on Martinez), and continues to support to this day."
And in this corner... Salud meanwhile has done his best to ignore Fareed, cruising along with familiar patter about the virtues of bipartisanship (remember that one-fourth of district voters who are independents) while ticking off a list of funds and programs he’s delivered for constituents, starting with those affected by January’s disaster in Montecito.
SB's congressman largely has refrained from personal counter-punches -after all, he has People to do that.
Tyler Hayden reported some of the action on the issue this way:
"Fareed’s latest TV ad states local “women have been raped and murders have been committed by people here unlawfully,” and in a series of tweets, he accuses Carbajal of failing to close legislative loopholes that let “violent, unlawful criminals rape, murder & attack the citizens of the Central Coast.” Fareed seizes specifically on the recent arrest of a Santa Maria Uber driver “here unlawfully” and accused of sexually assaulting multiple women in San Luis Obispo. “These crimes are happening right here & are happening more & more often,” he declares. “When Salud refuses to stand up for Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents he puts our families at risk.”
Carbjal’s camp and immigration activists have been quick to condemn Fareed’s messaging. “Fareed is taking a page right out of Trump’s playbook by choosing fear mongering and targeting immigrant communities over focusing on important issues for working families, like affordable healthcare and creating jobs here on the Central Coast,” said Carbajal spokesperson Tess Whittlesey. “This is simply hateful rhetoric with zero basis in fact to advance Trump’s cruel anti-immigrant agenda,” said CAUSEorganizer Frank Rodriguez. “The immigrant community doesn’t deserve to be continually criminalized and dehumanized for political gain."
Bottom line: Justin has been advised to transform his default facial expressions of smugness and snarling into a happier visage, so it will be interesting to see if he tries in the debate to rip Salud’s face off and, if so, whether he does so with sunniness and a smile.
Don't miss it.
Images: Carbajal and Fareed (San Luis Obispo Tribune); KEYT logo.