After decades of talking politics, Andy Caldwell is diving in.
The longtime radio personality and op-ed scribe announced his campaign for the 24th U.S. Congressional District on Aug. 12, setting him up for a potential 2020 showdown with incumbent Democrat Salud Carbajal.
"He's driving voters away from himself," Caldwell said. "His party wants Medicare for all. Medicare is going bankrupt. Social Security is going bankrupt. We have to save what we have for seniors now before we expand coverage to everyone in the country."
Born on an Air Force Base in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, Caldwell's family moved to Lompoc a decade later. He graduated from Lompoc High School, then San Diego State, and began his career in agriculture, working his way through college as a seasonal laborer at Sinton and Brown, eventually moving into a management role at another division of the Union Sugar company.
When he left the company in 1991, he began his advocacy career as founder of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business. Better known as COLAB, the group has 1,000 members in Santa Barbara County, Caldwell said, and it has sprouted neighbor groups of the same name in Imperial, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties.
His conservative daily radio show runs on AM 1440 in Santa Maria, part of his 25-year career in local radio. He wrote editorials for the Santa Maria Times for 17 years and now publishes three times a week in the Santa Barbara News Press.
Caldwell said he hadn't planned on running for Congress but was urged on by GOP leaders in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. He said he expects a competitive campaign but doesn't see himself as an underdog.
"I already have higher name ID than Salud Carbajal in this district," he said.
Democrats have held the district since it was redrawn in 2013. The answer to beating Carbajal, Caldwell said, is with his existing local influences.
"It's got to be grassroots," he said. "It is going to be a tough campaign because he has incumbency status, and he's going to be raising money from PACs [political action committees] across the country."
Carbajal recently called for impeaching President Donald Trump and has been vocal in his disapproval of many of the Trump administration's policies. Carbajal campaign spokesman, Ben Romo, says the congressman is focussing on his constituents. As for any future GOP candidates, Romo said he's not sure who they will be.
Republican Michael Erin Woody announced his inclination to run earlier this year after a failed 2018 bid for the same seat.
"There's a primary in March, and there's a general in November," Romo said. "Whoever the Republican nominee for Congress is yet to be determined." Δ