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Carbajal leads Caldwell in early 24th Congressional District results
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Carbajal leads Caldwell in early 24th Congressional District results

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Democratic incumbent Salud Carbajal is leading Republican challenger Andy Caldwell in the race for the 24th Congressional District seat, according to the first unofficial results released by the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Initial results show Salud, a Santa Barbara resident, holding the lead with 163,861 votes, or 62.7%, to 97,376 votes, or 37.3%, for Caldwell, a resident of Santa Maria, with 229 of 363 precincts reporting.

The results combine the totals from ballots counted by three counties’ elections offices, as the 24th Congressional District consists of all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and a section of Ventura County down the coast to Ventura plus the northern part of the county, consisting almost entirely of Los Padres National Forest land.

Following the first round of results, Carbajal said it was too early to make any predictions about the outcome.

"Clearly the early results are very favorable," he said. "I hope this will be the trend."

Carbajal attributed his lead to the clear differences between himself and Caldwell.

"I think his views are a little extreme and out of step with the Central Coast," Carbajal said, citing Caldwell's lack of support for economic relief and women's right to choose their health care and his support for more offshore oil development and Donald Trump's performance as president.

"When you look at those issues, there couldn't be a clearer difference," he said.

Caldwell agreed the early results might not reflect the final totals because of all the votes cast and ballots turned in Tuesday that had yet to be counted.

"My bottom line is, the gap is too great to make up," he said, attributing his votes to the 24th District demographics.

"The Republican turnout was low," Caldwell said. "You have to have a super, super high [Republican] turnout, and even that isn't enough. You have to win over the independents and some of the Democrats."

Caldwell said he probably would not run for the seat again. 

"I did this out of concern for my country," he said. "But if the voters in this district are happy with the direction it's going ... . I worked very hard to win, but this is a very tough district [for a Republican] to win in."

Registrar of Voters Joe Holland said Santa Barbara County’s first round of numbers came almost entirely from vote-by-mail ballots received prior to Election Day.

Jenelle Osborne took an early lead Tuesday night in the race for Lompoc's mayor, with unofficial results showing 5,387 votes for 56.91% of ballots cast. Challenger Victor Vega had received 4,006 votes for 42.32%, with four out of 11 precincts reporting. 

Holland said updates expected later Tuesday night would only add results from the county’s 36 consolidated polling places.

“We’re anticipating at least 90% of what we’ve received through Monday will be counted,” Holland said Thursday, when 117,000 ballots had been returned.

“We don’t know how many ballots we’ll get on Election Day, but we will not count vote-by-mail ballots turned in that day,” he said.

Although Santa Barbara started counting ballots Oct. 3, local election officials are facing a big job, as both Santa Barbara County and California as a whole have reported record numbers of registered voters.

As of last week, the county had 235,000 voters.

“That’s definitely a record,” Holland said. “The highest previously was about 227,000.”

The county reached that record two days before the March 3 primary.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla reported that as of Oct. 3, the state had surpassed 21 million registered voters.

In the March 3 primary, Caldwell enjoyed a slim lead in the first round of results, but Carbajal later took the lead as the ballots from polling places were counted.

Although Carbajal clearly outpaced Caldwell in the final primary results, the pair advanced to the general election runoff as the two highest vote getters ahead of independent candidate Kenneth Young of Santa Barbara.

But as a Republican, Caldwell has his work cut out for him if he expects to beat Carbajal in the Democrat-dominated 24th Congressional District.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, as of Sept. 3 almost 42.8% of the 24th District’s 411,823 voters were registered as Democrats, while just under 29.6% were registered as Republicans. A little less than 21.5% were registered with no party preference.

The numbers were even more lopsided in Santa Barbara County, which has the most voters in the 24th District at 227,774, as listed by the Secretary of State’s Office on Sept. 3.

Of those, 106,429, or 46.7%, were registered as Democrats, while just 57,942, or 25.4%, were registered as Republicans. Another 50,150, or just over 22%, were registered with no party preference.

Democrats only slightly outnumber Republicans in what has traditionally been more conservative San Luis Obispo County.

Its 178,107 registered voters are divided into 66,865, or 37.5%, Democrats; 62,448, or 35.1%, Republicans; and 36,907, or 20.7%, with no party preference.

Ventura County only has 5,942 registered voters in its little slice of the 24th District, but Democrats hold the majority there, too, although like Santa Barbara County, those registered with no party preference nearly equal those registered as Republicans.

Democrats there total 2,805, or 47.2%, compared to Republicans’ 1,347, or 22.7%, while 1,332, or 22.4%, have no party preference.

The 24th District has only included inland Santa Barbara County since redistricting for the 2002 election. Coastal Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County were added in redistricting before the 2012 election.

Republican Elton Gallegly represented the district from 2002 to 2012, when Democrat Lois Capps was elected. She served until 2016, when she retired and Carbajal was elected.

Updated election results can be found on santamariatimes.com.

Election 2020: Results stories, photos and profiles from local races

We will be updating our results page throughout Election Night and until the votes are made official. Go through this collection of our stories covering the local city council, mayoral and school board races.

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