Politics

Congressional orientation 'like drinking out of a firehose,' new SoCal rep says

Rep.-elect Salud Carbajal with outgoing Rep. Lois Capps of California's 24th Congressional district. Carbajal is among five freshman U.S. Representatives from California headed to Congress.
Rep.-elect Salud Carbajal with outgoing Rep. Lois Capps of California's 24th Congressional district. Carbajal is among five freshman U.S. Representatives from California headed to Congress.
Courtesy of Salud Carbajal's campaign

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As the 115th Congress prepares to be sworn in on Tuesday, one of California's five new members of the House of Representatives says training for the Marines wasn't as tough as the orientation for freshmen congressmembers. 

"It's like drinking out of a firehose," said Rep.-elect Salud Carbajal, who's replacing the retiring Lois Capps in the 24th Congressional District, which covers parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

He compared the orientation process to his experience going through Marine Corps boot camp, "multiplied by five ... It's quite a bit of information."

Carbajal spoke to KPCC from his new home away from home in Washington, D.C., where he's rented a room in a rowhouse that he's sharing with two other congressmen: Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso).

The former Santa Barbara County supervisor said he's taking a hybrid approach to staffing, keeping on some of Capps' staff and hiring some new people. 

Carbajal, who was born in Mexico,  immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was five years old. He spent part of his youth growing up in Oxnard, where his father was a farmworker.

"I think it enriches my perspective," said Carbajal. "Now coming to Congress, I feel that I've been given an opportunity to live part of that American dream that I think we all pursue."  

Donald Trump is on his mind as well, particularly since Carbajal, a Democrat, is an immigrant. 

"Certainly President-elect Trump said a lot of hateful, negative things during the campaign," he said. "No doubt if he pursues that agenda of hate and discrimination, I will no doubt stand firm and loudly fight against that."

Carbajal added that if there are opportunities for compromise, he'll work to find common ground.

The congressman said he has not yet met Trump.

Southern California is sending two other new faces to Congress along with Carbajal: Nanette Barragán, the former mayor of Hermosa Beach who will represent the South Bay's 44th District, and Lou Correa, a former state senator who will represent Orange County's 46th District. 

The other two California freshmen House members are Ro Khanna, who will represent the Bay Area's 17th District, and Jimmy Panetta, elected to serve the central coast's 20th District.