Freshman Rep. Salud Carbajal, 52, a California Democrat, talks about immigrating from Mexico, Marine boot camp and his Republican friends.
Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?
A: Two things: One is you hear about all the gridlock and all the partisanship here and I think overwhelmingly, everybody you meet, they’re really nice people. Either they have very good social skills or they are very good people. I think that has been the most surprising.
The second one, and I joke around with everyone in the district, I tell them, “I heard there was such a thing as regular order, but regular order is like the Loch Ness Monster. I’ve heard about it, people have seen it, but I’ve never seen it.”
Q: What unique perspective do you bring having immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a child?
A: The rich experience that I bring is understanding what it’s like being an immigrant to this country. Being raised with limited means in my family, understanding, I think, the plight that struggling families go through, getting ahead, getting a good education, having to gain access for health insurance through Medicaid. Understanding those challenges, I think, of many working families allows me to understand firsthand what it’s like to struggle to get ahead. Being able to have had the opportunity to get a good education and serve my country and being able to live the American dream, I think, allows me to make sure that … I’m always mindful of those struggles that working families go through. The public policy that I’m part of … is reflective of making sure everybody has opportunities.
Q: What was your toughest day as a Marine?
A: I think boot camp itself was a great eye-opening experience. To volunteer and to show up, and then you’re going through this rigorous training and you’re saying, “I can’t believe I did this on my own, I volunteered.” But it’s also one of the most enriching, gratifying experiences of camaraderie, of kinship. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Not only is it patriotism and serving our country, but it’s just a great brother-, sisterhood.
Q: Who do you consider to be a friend across the aisle?
A: Don Bacon, Lloyd K. Smucker, Mike Gallagher and Jack Bergman, who’s a Marine Corps general. Those are four individuals, I think, that I have really good relationships with and are also part of my freshman class. I would say with the exception of Lloyd, all of those are folks who also served.
Q: What advice would you give someone running for Congress for the first time?
A: It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work, and stay true to your passion, stay true to who you are. Seek to build partnerships and, when at all possible, transcend politics and really work toward solutions.
Last book read: “City of Rivals” by Jason Grumet.
Last movie seen: My wife brought me to this movie — “Victoria & Abdul.”
Favorite song of all time: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.
Role models: My parents. In the public policy arena: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy.