LOMPOC, Calif. - Controversy in the closely watched election to replace retiring Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps.
Democrat candidate and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal is apologizing for referring to Lompoc as the "armpit" of Santa Barbara County.
Carbajal's remark, which he says was off-hand and made in jest to a friend, was overheard by a political opponent from Lompoc at a recent regional government meeting.
News of Carbajal's remark sparked demonstrations in front of his downtown Santa Barbara campaign office where protestors demanded he apologize and stop disparaging Lompoc.
Carbajal's "armpit" remark came as a surprise to most of the Lompoc residents Central Coast News spoke with at random Thursday afternoon.
"That's disgusting, we're not an armpit by any stretch of the imagination", says Lompoc resident Chris Farro, "you'll find more artists here, more musicians here, more forward thinking people, progressive people, and its far from an armpit."
"I don't know why he's saying that for", says Lompoc resident Earl Pagan, "that kind of offends me."
"He doesn't know what he's talking about", says Lompoc resident Susan Pagan, "Lompoc is the best town I've been in in Santa Barbara County."
"He hasn't lived here, he doesn't know, he may have driven through a few times", says Lompoc resident Ken Batson, "its ostentatious for him to be saying that about a district that he serves, which is us, and a city that he serves, to write us all off as the armpit of Santa Barbara County."
"I am offended especially by a member who represents us constituents", says Lompoc resident Sharon Pensabene, "and of course he says he made the remark offhandedly and in jest."
Salud Carbajal was out of town Thursday and unavailable to comment on the controversy.
A statement from his Congressional campaign office to Central Coast News said "Mr. Carbajal apologizes for the off-hand remark about Lompoc and is proud of the work he's done for the City of Lompoc, including securing county and federal funding for the Lompoc Veterans Building for community use."
The statement goes on to say "Salud Carbajal has been involved in providing funding for critical infrastructure projects in the Lompoc area and will continue to be an advocate for policies that benefit working and middle class families and will partner with the Lompoc community to better represent them."
Salud Carbajal's opponent in the race for the 24th Congressional District seat is Republican Justin Fareed who condemned Carbajal's "armpit" remark.
"These are people's lives that we are talking about and this isn't something to joke about and these off-colored remarks are really despicable in my opinion", Fareed said Thursday afternoon in Santa Maria, "as someone who was born and raised here on the Central Coast who really cares and has gone to every single corner of this district, for him (Carbajal) to take something like this lightly is just wrong."
Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl says Carbajal's remark was unfortunate, but Lingl says he believes Carbajal when he says he was only joking and was not serious.