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Congressman Salud Carbajal, top left, speaks at restaurant Viva, in Santa Barbara, on election night.

Central Coast voters have sent 24th Congressional District representative Salud Carbajal back to Washington to continue representing the region's interests -- an opportunity that Carbajal said he's privileged to take.

"I'm ready to go back to work again in January to begin my second term,” Carbajal said Friday morning. “It certainly feels great, and I’m so grateful to the voters who put their trust and confidence in me to continue representing them in Washington."

Midterm results

Carbajal beat out Republican challenger Justin Fareed, who was not available for comment Friday due to an illness, to keep his seat in the House of Representatives after garnering 96,187 votes, or 56 percent. 

Fareed captured 75,695 votes, for 44 percent, according to semi-official election results released on the California Secretary of State's website.

In the 2016 General Election Fareed lost to Carbajal by seven percentage points, compared to 12 percentage points on Nov. 6.

Fareed conceded the race Wednesday morning, thanking his supporters and campaign staff. While expressing disappointment in the outcome, "I know that we did everything we could have done to emerge victorious," his statement read. He told voters: "you are the reason I decided to run for Congress again."

Fareed stated that he remains committed to being part of solutions to Central Coast issues that were expressed to him by voters during the campaign, but did not address his future political plans.

"There were many similarities in the concerns that were shared, but everyone I talked to told me they were sick of politics as usual, tired of not being listened to by their representative, didn't believe our elected officials had their constituents' interest at heart, and that it was time for a new generation of leadership in Washington, D.C.," Fareed said in his statement.

Voter numbers

According to results updated Friday, Fareed fared far better with San Luis Obispo County voters than Santa Barbara/Ventura county voters, capturing 38,287 or 47 percent of the vote in that county, to Carbajal's 41,991 or 52.3 percent. 

Carbajal maintained his dominant home-base support in Santa Barbara County, where he served over a decade as 1st District County Supervisor, pulling 52,612 or 59 percent of the votes, to Fareed's 36,489 votes or 41 percent. 

That trend was reflected in an analysis of voting patterns in the June 2018 primary, which showed more conservative decision-making in the northern part of the county. Carbajal had fewer votes in North County than then-challengers Fareed and Michael Erin Woody, both Republicans.

The 24th Congressional District was reconfigured from the 23rd in 2011 to include all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and a piece of Ventura County consisting mostly of U.S. Forest Service lands. 

When the more conservative areas of northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County were added, the Democrat voter registration in the district was reduced from about 12 points to 4 points.

In the district's former incarnations, however, the seat was held by Republicans for more than 50 years — from 1946 until 1996 when it was finally captured by Democrat Walter Capps, who lost his first try to Republican Andrea Seastrand two years before.

His seat became vacant after Capps died of a heart attack nine months after being sworn in; his wife, Lois Capps, won a special election to replace her late husband in March 1998. 

The last Republican who got close to unseating a Democrat was former actor Chris Mitchum, who vied for Capps' seat and lost by 4 percentage points.

Capps was the longest-running Democratic Congresswoman to represent the district, after winning re-election that November and the next eight elections before announcing her retirement in 2016. 

After her retirement, Carbajal, Fareed and other local officials from the state Assembly to the city of Santa Barbara threw their hats in the ring. Fareed and Carbajal emerged as the top two vote-getters to face off in the November 2016 elections, which Carbajal won.

Back to the House

Tuesday marked the first time in eight years that the Democrats took control of the House. 

While the GOP has the majority in the Senate, Carbajal says he's elated because the change in the balance of power "provides a check-and-balance on this administration during a time of divisive rhetoric and corruption coming out of the current White House cabinet."

The change in House control is indicative of the "American people who spoke loudly of their desires to have this country go in a different direction,” said Carbajal.

Carbajal ran a platform promising to work across the aisle for civil rights, affordable healthcare, immigration reform, environment protection and job creation, especially during the impending closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Plans for second term

Carbajal plans on addressing the labor shortage in the agricultural community by pursuing comprehensive immigration reform, protecting federally-regulated farm workers, fighting against climate change and investing in renewable energy. 

He promises to fight for gun safety laws to reduce incidents of "tragic, senseless gun violence," throughout the region, and also vows to ensure funds will continue coming in for fire prevention and preparation. 

Legislation that failed to pass during his first term -- from the California Clean Coast Act to the Gun Violence Restraining Act -- will be reintroduced, he said. 

With the shift in power, Carbajal said he is “hopeful we can work on things that the nation and the Central Coast want -- like affordable healthcare, addressing high premium costs so that small businesses and individuals can have more affordable healthcare."

Looking ahead, Carbajal said he’s hopeful that the partisan gridlock will be mitigated, and promises to continue reaching across the aisle to look for bipartisan solutions to solve problems.

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Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter