SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, CALIF. -- Andy Caldwell is no stranger to local politics.
The Lompoc High School graduate has lived on the Central Coast most of his life and has been involved in Central Coast political issues for decades.
"I have been a government watchdog, business advocate, and consumer advocate for 30 years in the halls of government," said the Republican candidate, who is running against Democratic incumbent Salud Carbajal for the seat to represent the 24th Congressional District.
The Nipomo resident has long been a familiar face at countless Central Coast government meetings, often times speaking during public comment periods.
He's also hosted a local radio show for more than a decade, and has written numerous newspaper editorials.
Now, for the first time in his life, he's running as a political candidate.
"I'm running for this seat because America is in a serious dire situation," said Caldwell. "I believe I'm the best person for this job because I've been working in the private sector. I've not been a government bureaucrat or career politician my entire life. I propose common sense solutions that we know they work because they work in other places."
When asked about President Donald Trump, Caldwell said he backs the President and his policies.
"I think that some of the policies and the direction he is taking our country in, of bringing back jobs from China, lowering regulations and taxes, is what led to the historic low unemployment for Hispanics, African-Americans, women," said Caldwell. "Entrepreneurship was on the rise. We had virtually zero unemployment when you really look at it, and I think that is an absolutely phenomenal record. I do wish that he would tone down the personality a little bit when he is doing debates, but you know, the point here is, I look at where his mind and his heart is in spite of his sometimes unfortunate rhetoric."
The heart of the his campaign focuses on two main issues, attracting better paying jobs and creating more affordable housing.
"One of the reasons that housing is so unaffordable here, is number one, government regulations that drive up the cost of housing, but number two, it has to do with our income levels," said Caldwell. "The reason people can't afford to live here is we lost all the middle income class jobs, including manufacturing and industry, and entrepreneurial startups. It allowed people to make a good living. If they can make a good living, they would be able to afford at least some of the housing on the Central Coast."
He is critical of Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as California politics as a whole.
When asked about electricity, along with recent rolling blackouts, he called the state, "The Great Pretender."
"California imports more electricity to its state than anybody else, and we import more oil and gas to California than any other state," said Caldwell. "One of my plans as your next Congressman, is to keep Diablo Nuclear Power Plant open. I'm not only going to keep it open, I'm going to have the federal government buy it because it is literally a shovel-ready project."
He added keeping the power plant open, which is slated to close by 2025, is simply the right move for the state.
"Keeping Diablo Canyon open, it's common sense to not give up 10 percent of our electricity supply, and a $1 billion economic impact, and a quarter of a billion dollar payroll, in the middle of rolling blackouts," said Caldwell. "It makes no sense."
Caldwell believes California needs to keep a diversified assortment of power options as it looks to maintain supply and demand.
"I believe in a balanced portfolio, hydroelectric, solar, wind, oil and gas, and nuclear."
Another top priority for Caldwell is reducing deficit spending and lowering the national debt.
"I believe that we that have got to dramatically and drastically shrink the size of the federal government to lower our cost," said Caldwell. "We've got to bring back literally millions of jobs from China to increase the revenue coming into government's coffers, as well as people's bank accounts, and retirement savings, and so we've got to do both, cut costs and increase revenue the old fashioned way, not by increasing taxes, but by expanding the tax base, via better paying jobs."
As the Central Coast, as well as the nation and world continues to live with COVID-19, Caldwell said he believes businesses should be reopened immediately.
He adds people who are most vulnerable to the virus must be cared for.
"We need to reopen our economy as quickly as possible," said Caldwell. "Protecting the most vulnerable in our community, i.e., people in nursing homes, people that are getting chemo that have compromised immune systems, so we have to do absolutely everything to protect the most vulnerable among us."
Carbajal recently revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19 while in Washington, D.C.
Caldwell is offering his opponent well wishes as he recovers from the disease.
"I don't wish COVID on anybody," said Caldwell. "It could be a serious and fatal disease, so my hope and prayers for a healthy and speedy recovery."
Caldwell is the son of an immigrant, and emphasized immigration is an extremely important issue, and is something that needs to be addressed.
"I believe two things. I think we have to give DACA kids certainty," said Caldwell. "I would give them a measure of certainty and stability that they can stay here. However, I also want border security, and I'm not willing, I'm not willing to do anything near amnesty until we get that border secure because we've been talking about this since Ronald Reagan was president."
As he looks ahead to the fast-approaching Nov. 3 election, Caldwell states he is the best candidate for the position, and believes that he is the person that is suited to working with both parties.
"I believe there's too much partisan rancor in Washington, D.C., and of course, in Sacramento as well," said Caldwell. "I believe that we have to start working on common goals, and not partisan politics. Salud Carbajal claims he walks across the aisle, but in works across the aisle, but his voting record is 100 percent identical to Nancy Pelosi, and Nancy Pelosi is not known for being bipartisan."
On his campaign signs, Caldwell is referred to as "The Voice of Reason."
He points out, should he win, he will not be beholden to party affiliation, donors, or special interests.
"We've had too much partisan gridlock, partisan acrimony, and too much throwing money at problems year after year after year with nothing changing, nothing being solved," said Caldwell. "I want to put an end to that, and I want to save this country for the next generation, and I want to make America that shining light on a hill once again that everybody that's here can be proud to live here."