Santa Barbara Democrat Salud Carbajal appears to be on his way back to Congress as California’s 24th District representative after garnering almost 62% of the votes, according to unofficial results posted by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Carbajal has 169,226 votes for 61.9% of the ballots cast compared to Santa Maria Republican Andy Caldwell’s 104,126 votes for 38.1%, according to figures posted Friday morning.

If that lead holds, and likely it will given the relatively small number of ballots left to be counted, Carbajal will hold on to his congressional seat.

Carbajal attributed his lead in the race to the issues he’s focused on during his term in Congress and to what he said are Caldwell’s extreme views.

Carbajal leads Caldwell in early 24th Congressional District results

Caldwell said the Republican turnout was low in the district that’s heavily Democratic in voter registration, making it difficult for a conservative to win the seat.

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 that county, consisting almost entirely of Los Padres National Forest land.

Broken down by county, Carbajal garnered 99,590 votes for 64.8% while Caldwell picked up 54,152 votes for 35.2% in Santa Barbara County, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Caldwell fared better in the traditionally more conservative San Luis Obispo County, where he pulled in 48,513 votes for 42.1% compared to Carbajal’s 66,739 votes for 57.9%.

Carbajal was strongest among the relatively small number of 24th District voters in Ventura County, where his 2,897 votes represented 66.5%, with Caldwell collecting 1,461 votes for 33.5%.

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“I think I represent the values and the priorities the residents of the Central Coast believe and hold,” Carbajal said, adding those include making sure that businesses and the unemployed have the resources they need to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also cited lowering prices on prescription drugs, promoting renewable energy to bring in more jobs, making sure Vandenberg Air Force Base is competitive in its bid for the Space Force headquarters and commercial launches.

“Bringing in more economic opportunities … and certainly climate change are some of the biggest issues on the Central Coast,” Carbajal said.

After the initial returns released Tuesday night showed Carbajal in the lead, Caldwell was hoping to pull in additional votes from those who delivered mail-in-ballots or cast live ballots at polling places.

“I’m hoping my totals will go up based on, quote-unquote, late voting,” Caldwell said, but he admitted the gap was probably too great for him to make up.

His percentages did creep up as ballot counts were updated, but they rose only by tenths of a percentage point.

Caldwell said he probably will not run for the 24th District seat again in two years.

"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.”

He said he would not only need the Republican votes but would also have to pull in votes from independents and some of the Democrats, too, to win the district seat.

The Secretary of State’s Office reported that as of Oct. 19, about 42.6% of 24th District voters were registered as Democrats, while only about 29.5% were registered as Republicans.

About 21.7% registered with no party preference.