Fil-Am congressional candidates advance to California general election

Newsom, Cox face off for governor in November and other primary results

After the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, many sought to become more involved in politics around the country. With heightened attention on immigration, the gun debate and the shifting of the partisan discourse, the urge for improving on the historically low voter turnout of midterm elections soared this year.

On Tuesday, June 5, all eyes were on California, whose electorate voted on a number of government positions and districts with key races that have the potential to flip parties in the general election. In California’s primaries, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the November election regardless of party, so many of the races have candidates of the same party running against each other in November.

All votes have not yet been counted as of press time, but it was a successful election for Filipino-American government hopefuls who advanced to the general election.

Democratic assemblymember Rob Bonta of the 18th congressional district won 80 percent of the vote in his district, propelling him to November. Bonta, who is originally from Quezon City, became the first Filipino-American member of the California Legislature when he was first elected to the state assembly in 2012.

Twenty-six-year-old Fil-Am Kenneth Mejia, a certified public accountant, of the Green Party advanced to the general election in the race for California’s 34th congressional district, an historic win for both Fil-Ams in politics and the Green Party. Mejia faces incumbent Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat, in the general election.

Mejia, who is running in the district that comprises the eastern region of Los Angeles, is running a campaign inspired by Bernie Sanders progressivism. In 2016, he quit his six-figures-a-year job in accounting and finance to run for office. Inspired by his mother’s battle with cancer, he has made quality health care, college affordability and steering clear from corporate interests cornerstones of his progressive campaign.

He chose to run under the Green Party, rather than the Democratic Party, because he was inspired by the party’s 2016 presidential candidate, Jill Stein, for creating a space for jaded Sanders supporters who weren’t willing to vote for Hillary Clinton or Trump.

“Because of [Stein] I realized the Democratic Party never represented me,” Mejia told Huffington Post in April, saying that she fought for legal status for all immigrants, cancelling student debt and universal health care. “When I saw Jill Stein actively fighting for these things that most Americans want, I knew that the Green Party was the right place for me.”

The Central Valley also saw a Fil-Am advance to November in Democrat Selma businessman and engineer TJ Cox, who won 37 percent of the vote for the 21st congressional district and will face off against incumbent Rep. David Valadao, a Republican, who won 63 percent of the vote, according to 23ABC Bakersfield.

TJ Cox, who is half-Filipino, got into the race late, replacing Bakersfield attorney Emilio Huerta as the sole Democrat on the ballot. By mid-May he had raised $500,000 and has the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) “Red to Blue” program, an initiative that provides additional resources to candidates in swing districts.

Filipina-American Cristina Osmeña also advanced to the general election in the race for California’s 14th congressional district, pitting her against veteran Democrat incumbent Rep. Jackie Speier. Osmeña, who belongs to the Osmeña political family in Cebu, is running on a Republican ticket and has made immigration a key issue of her platform.

She understands that looking to unseat Speier will be an uphill battle, but she also knows that she represents the changing American demographic.

“I want voters to think that the odds are against me. I have the element of surprise on my side. I want to be underestimated. This type of situation appeals to me,” Osmeña said as quoted by the Inquirer. “I am an immigrant and a political refugee. It is front and center in how I am describing myself, which is absolutely true. Republicans adore the Founding Fathers and the flag and freedom. These ideas don’t have a skin color.”

Christina Laskowski, another Filipina American Republican, won 25 percent of the vote in the race for District 22 of the California Assembly

In San Joaquin County, Fil-Am Reno Ursal, a supervising appraiser in Alameda County Assessor’s Office, got 20 percent of the vote for Assessor-Recorder-County clerk, failing to beat incumbent Steve Bestolarides.

Republican Edwin Duterte (unconfirmed whether he’s related to the Philippine president) tried to unseat seasoned Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters in the 43rd District, but failed to advance to the general, only garnering 4.3 percent of the vote.

Governor’s race results

In the closely watched governor’s race, frontrunner CA Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and former San Francisco mayor, nabbed the top spot with 33 percent of the vote and will face Republican businessman John Cox, an Illinois transplant, in November in a hot race defined by Newsom’s stalwart rebuke of the Trump administration and Cox’s allegiance to Trump conservatism.

“Our values, as you know, are under assault,” Newsom told supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday night. “We’re engaged in an epic battle and it looks like voters will have a real choice this November between a governor who’s gonna stand up to Donald Trump and a foot soldier in his war on California.”

He added: “In politics today, there’s too much anger. Instead, we offered answers. Resistance with results.”

John Cox, who soared to second place after Trump endorsed him, has touted his business acumen and experience in “delivering results” as a way to promote his campaign while criticizing Establishment politicians for creating legislative gridlock.

“We can continue the status quo, which is what Gavin Newsom represents — with high taxes, homeless on the streets, bad roads, mismanaged schools, mismanaged water supplies, mismanaged forests, or we can go to a businessman who’s had a 40-year career of delivering results,” John Cox told supporters in the Gaslamp district of San Diego.

The official count of votes usually take a few days to a few weeks to tally up, but a printing error on the voter roster in Los Angeles County on Tuesday caused confusion and could delay the official vote for even longer.

The LA County Registrar-Recorder announced that 118,522 voters were omitted from the roster that voters check into at their polling locations. It is unsure which areas of the county were affected, but about 1,530 precincts of the 4,357 LA County voting locations were impacted, according to a spokesperson from the county registrar.

Late on Election Day as Newsom and John Cox were the clear candidates to advance to the general, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of LA who was counting on his home turf to propel him to November, called for the country registrar to keep the polls open longer.

Nevertheless, Villaraigosa conceded at the end of the night and asked his supporters to back Newsom through to November.

“I’m asking you to get behind Gavin Newsom,” Villaraigosa said. “I’m asking you to stand up and pressure every one of us — Democrat and Republican alike — pressure every one of us to stand up for you, to fight for you, not just for ourselves, but for all of us for an America and a California where everyone of us are growing together.

Facing off for the senatorial race are Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein and CA Senate President Kevin de Leon. Early party backlash against Feinstein didn’t phase her campaign as she handily won the first place spot with de Leon a distant second.

The contest will likely be a battle between Feinstein’s decades of political fortitude against underdog de Leon’s progressive, fiercely anti-Trump platform.

“Once you get to the top two, then I think it changes the dynamic completely, and then you have a real race,” de Leon said at a campaign event on Sunday.

The general midterm elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at

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