The Daily Nexus spoke with 24th district representative candidates Salud Carbajal and Helena Pasquarella ahead of the March 5 election primaries.

Candidate Thomas Cole did not respond to requests for an interview.

Helena Pasquarella

Pasquarella’s platform points include climate action, equitable education, reducing national debt and, most prominently, reducing military spending. Courtesy of Helena Pasquarella

Helena Pasquarella is an Ojai Valley School teacher, UCSB alum and Democrat challenger to incumbent Salud Carbajal for the 24th district representative seat. 

Pasquarella was previously a private school teacher and event photography business owner and ran for the Ojai Water District but lost the race. Her involvement with her local community escalated when she realized how easy it was to run for office. She said she wants to “change the game.”

“It’s not that hard to get your name on the ballot. You pay $1,740 and you can get your name on it, or if you get 2,000 signatures you can get on it for free,” Pasquarella said.

Because she’s not a politician, Pasquarella said she sees herself as uniquely primed to represent people in office.

“I’m not going to do business as usual because the way our government has been working isn’t working for everybody,” Pasquarella said. “It’s just working for the multinational companies and corporations and the 1% elite.”

Pasquarella’s platform points include climate action, equitable education, reducing national debt and, most prominently, reducing military spending.

“[Of the] $886 billion of military aid, that’s 62% of our nondiscretionary spending, goes to military aid. Why are we doing this? We have so many needs at home,” Pasquarella said.

She strongly supports calling on Israel for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and supports Senate Bill 111, the U.S. Department of Peace Building Act and HR 77, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Pasquarella said she was recently endorsed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Pasquarella cited her experience teaching in inner-city schools with high drop-out rates and how that contributed to her passion to redirect military spending to resources like education.

“I had been at a school where it started out with a freshman class of 1500 kids, and by the time they were seniors, there were only 750 kids left. That’s a dropout rate of 50% — why is this happening? We want everybody to have an education. We want economic justice for everybody,” Pasquarella said. 

Ahead of March 5, Pasquarella said she is hopeful about the outcome and emphasized “peace” as her number one priority.

“We need to conceive of a world where peace is possible, where we actually care for people,” Pasquarella said.

Salud Carbajal

Carbajal is running on a platform of housing, healthcare, childcare and immigration reform. Courtesy of Salud Carbajal

Incumbent Congressman Salud Carbajal is running for a fourth term of office in the 24th district representative seat.

Carbajal immigrated to the U.S. when he was young and eventually settled in Oxnard, California with his family, including his father who was a farmworker. He attended UC Santa Barbara and, after graduating in 1990, went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

His political career began in 2004, when he was elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and then ran for the 24th district representative seat in 2015, where he has continued to serve. 

“I think it’s important that we do everything possible to help our businesses and those in our country to succeed as best as they can and make sure that they are living the American dream,” Carbajal said. 

Carbajal is running on a platform of housing, healthcare, childcare and immigration reform.

This January, he co-authored the Decent, Affordable, Safe Housing for All (D.A.S.H.) Act with Congresswoman Val Hoyle to make housing more affordable for working families. 

“The D.A.S.H. act will provide first-time homebuyers with funding to assist them to buy their first home and also provide support to address our houseless individuals and provide more housing opportunities for our veterans,” Carbajal said. 

Regarding legislation that will specifically impact students, Carbajal referenced his Degrees Not Debt Act, introduced in May 2022, which seeks to double the Pell Grant maximum to $13,800 a year.

“[I want to] make sure more financial aid is available to our students to ensure that they don’t have to take out this crushing debt of loans that have become the norm now. That should not be happening,” Carbajal said. 

Carbajal has been an advocate of university-military partnership, and regarding the crisis in Gaza, said that he supports Israel “defending itself” while concurrently providing humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

“There’s over 100 hostages that still Hamas has, and we need to make sure those hostages are released,” Carbajal said. “The goal is to get to a ceasefire, and I think that’s aggressively being worked on right now.

With his D.A.S.H. legislation, as well as ceasefire discussions, Carbajal said it is key to work with representatives on the other side of the aisle to reach broader solutions.

“I think we need to work together to fund our government and come together on solutions that fund our government and also reduce our national debt,” Carbajal said.

Carbajal said he is “optimistic” he will be able to continue representing the 24th district.

“I think my record speaks for itself. I’ve been an effective legislator and representative in Congress who has fought for the values and to address the challenges that we have here on the Central Coast and our nation,” Carbajal said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Feb. 29, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Sindhu Ananthavel
Sindhu Ananthavel (she/they) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Ananthavel was the Deputy News Editor for the 2022-23 school year, the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2021-22 school year and an assistant news editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at