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Congressional candidate attends football game, not debate 

Flag on the play! A Republican candidate for California’s 24th Congressional District backed out of a debate with his competitors and attended a college football game instead.

Justin Fareed, 27, who’s running for an open congressional seat currently occupied by Democrat Lois Capps, was initially scheduled to attend an Oct. 22 debate organized by the Santa Barbara Young Republicans with two of his opponents, state Assemblyman “Katcho” Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) and perennial Republican candidate Matt Kokkonen. According to SBYR President Robert Mercado, Fareed’s campaign agreed to participate in the debate as far back as July. But Mercado said Fareed called him personally about two weeks before the debate to let him know he wouldn’t be able to make it. 

“He told me he had a family issue,” Mercado said.

Apparently Fareed’s family issue included a football game between his alma mater, UCLA, and the University of California Berkley, more commonly referred to as Cal. The game took place Oct. 22, the same night as the debate. On Oct. 29, Fareed’s Twitter account featured a link to a sports-talk podcast, The Before You Go Pro Locker Room Show. During the interview, Fareed, a former UCLA football player, mentioned attending the game.

“I was just down at the UCLA game against Cal; we looked pretty good,” Fareed said on the Internet radio show. “But we gotta continue to get better.”

Mercado said he hadn’t heard that Fareed, who did send a representative from his campaign to make a statement at the debate, had been at the game, which was held at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles.

Kayla Berube, Fareed’s campaign manager, didn’t deny that Fareed attended the game, but said that it was part of his prior commitments.

“Our campaign informed the organizers well in advance that Justin would be unable to attend the event several weeks ago due to several previous commitments,” Berube wrote in an email response to questions from New Times. “Among them that evening was the football game at UCLA, Justin’s alma mater.”

Mercado said he was never specifically told that Fareed wasn’t coming to the debate because he had to attend the football game.

“It wasn’t mentioned,” he said. 

Fareed has a strong relationship with his former college and its football team. In addition to playing on the team, he later worked on the coaching staff, according to the biographical information available on his campaign’s website. He now works as vice president of Carpinteria-based Pro Band Sports Industries.

Mercado said that while Fareed backed out of the debate weeks before it took place, fliers for the event featuring all three candidates had already been made and distributed. It may have led to some confusion and disappointment for audience members such as Ron Harkey.

“I came there to see him,” said Harkey, a Santa Barbara resident.

Harkey and others who missed out on seeing Fareed will likely have another chance to see the candidate in action. Campaign Manager Berube said Fareed was open to future debates.

“Over the coming months, we welcome any invitations to open, public debates with all of the candidates, giving Justin the opportunity to discuss the important issues facing the Central Coast and our nation,” she wrote. “Justin has been traveling the district meeting with voters at town halls, meet-and-greets, and community events, and we continue to hear the same thing: Voters are tired of career politicians who care more about their next election than the next generation.”

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