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Candidates tackle education, economy, polarization at first 24th District debate

Candidates tackle education, economy, polarization at first 24th District debate

The Central Coast got its first real glimpse of the candidates running to represent the 24th Congressional District on Thursday, as Cal Poly hosted the first debate at Spanos Theatre.

With nine candidates on stage, there was only enough time for 1-minute-and-30-second responses, on a variety of issues including economic growth and the political polarization in Washington.

Candidates also took time to discuss their thoughts on the education system.

“Wall Street and big banks should not have better loan opportunities than students, and they should be able to reduce their own debts so they’re not burdened with being able to pay their loans as opposed to getting into the workplace and starting their careers,” Democratic candidate Helene Schneider said.

Republican State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian touched on affordability and accessibility.

“We should consider zero interest, because an investment in our kids is an investment in our future,” Achadjian said.

Democratic candidate William Ostrander, who had the loudest applause of the evening, suggested that to pay for reforms, which include university costs, the federal government should impose a 0.2-percent tax on financial transactions on Wall Street and initiate a civil service program for youth.

On growing the local economy, Democratic candidate Salud Carbajal said there is a need to raise the minimum wage so that more families can get into the middle class. He also suggested that there should be a stronger push to grow employment opportunities in renewable energy industry.

Ostrander also advocated strongly to raise the minimum wage.

“In our district, we have 40 percent of our people work in what we call Tier 3 jobs,” Ostrander said. “Tier 3 jobs are those low-end wages that average $12.43 in our community, and we live in a community that has the highest cost for housing in the United States. Now, please, tell me how that works. You get $12 an hour and you buy a $500,000 house or pay $22,000 to rent a house -- it doesn’t work.”

Republican candidate Justin Fareed said it was time to promote economic freedom for families and businesses across the Central Coast.

“We need to send people to Washington who actually know what it means to balance a budget, to meet payroll and to create a job,” Fareed said.

The candidates also discussed the polarization in Washington, and most stressed the importance of listening to what the other side has to say.

“What we all see and what’s clear is that Congress isn’t a functional institution today, but it can be,” Fareed said. “It’s necessary that we clean house and we work to get this working again for the American people.”

Schneider discussed the influence of money in Washington.

“I think it’s really unfortunate on Capitol Hill how much money has corrupted politics there, and it’s really poisoned the well,” Schneider said. “I think that is a key part of what is causing a lot of the problems.”

The candidates are vying for the seat currently held by Congresswoman Lois Capps, who announced last year that she would be retiring at the end of her term. Capps has served the district since 1998.

The 24th Congressional District includes all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties along with a sliver of Ventura County.

Kenny Lindberg covers Santa Barbara County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter

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