(First of two parts)
NEW YORK – Of the four Filipino Americans that are running for office for the first time, two are moving on to the general election this November 6, 2018, and two others in the state and city council did not make it despite a hard-fought campaign in the primary.
Cristina Osmena of California and Gina Ortiz Jones from Texas are vying for a US congressional district seat. The candidacies of Joshua Ang Price of Arkansas and Melissa Rada of New Jersey were cut short during the primary election last month. While Price sought to represent House District 39 district in the state of Arkansas, Rada was an at-large candidate for a city council seat in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Cristina Osmena, a Republican
The 49-year-old Osmena is a Republican seeking to unseat Democrat Jacqui Speier, 68, of the 14th Congressional District n California, who has been in office since 2013. Although Osmena and Speier are the only two candidates in the district, they went through the state primary election on June 5, 2018. They will face off again during the general election.
California is one of the three states that has adopted a two-primary election in which all candidates are listed on the same primary ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of their partisan affiliations, advance to the general election.
Osmena is a great-granddaughter of Philippine President Sergio Osmena (1944-1946), who walked ashore with General Douglas MacArthur during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and a daughter of former Philippine Senator Sergio Osmena III. She migrated to the US, exiled with her family – her mother, Maria Angela Barreto Osmena and brother Sergio Osmena I, at age 6 during the Martial Law era of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Her father, who was imprisoned by Marcos, escaped in 1977 and joined them later.
She went to UC Berkeley for her Bachelor of Arts in English and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. She had a 20-year career at investment banks and investment management firms. She was working in New York as an equity analyst when the World Trade Center was attacked. To focus on her candidacy, she left SunPreme, a solar module manufacturer based in Sunnyvale, California where she was Vice President of Corporate Development.
Her husband, Stephen O’Rourke, is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and a veteran of the first Gulf War.
Although it is her first attempt to run for office, Osmena believes that “outside thinking is needed now more than ever.” She also feels that the “peninsula is not well represented in Washington, DC. She said: “I believe I can make a difference.”
Osmena faces an uphill battle in a district where Spier beat her Republican rival Angel Cardenas in 2016, garnering 231,630 votes (80.9%) against Cardenas’ 54,817 (19.1%) or 286,447 votes. The 14th district is located in the western portion of the state and includes much of San Mateo County and a portion of San Francisco County. In the previous two presidential elections, according to the Cook Partisan Voter Index, this district is D+27, which means that the results were 27 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. This made this district the 37th most Democratic nationally.
As a Filipino immigrant and political refugee, she is openly supportive of DACA but opposes sanctuary states. She considers herself a moderate Republican on social issues but fiscally conservative. She believes that assault weapons should be banned from the public.
Gina Ortiz-Jones, a Democrat
Gina Ortiz Jones, 37, is a first-generation American, a former US Air Force intelligence officer and a veteran of the first Iraq war, and a member of the LGBT community. She won the Democratic runoff for the 23rd Congressional District in Texas on May 22 against Rick Tevino. She got 16,696 votes (68.09%) compared to Tevino’s 7,826 (31.91%) of 24,522 total votes. She will be running against incumbent Republican Will Hurd.
During the March 5 primary, she won over four other Democrats receiving 41.56 percent or 18,443 of 44,372 total votes.
Like Osmena, Ortiz Jones is in a tough spot against a two-term incumbent who has a sizeable war chest in his re-election bid. According to the Federal Election Commission, as of Feb. 14, 2018, Hurd has a cash on hand of $870,123 against Ortiz Jones’ $217,363. In addition, the 2018 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district is R+1 – a 1 percentage point more Republican than the national average – the 229th-most Republican nationally. However, two other race trackers, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections, rate this district as a toss-up as of May 22, 2018.
But Democrats do not seem deterred with these data. The district has see-sawed between Democrats and Republicans with nobody holding it for more than two years since 2007. They can turn it back to their side again. The 2016 election saw Hurd narrowly defeat his Democratic challenger Pete Gallego in the rematch by just over one percentage point or about 3,000 votes. Hurd originally unseated Gallego in the 2014 general election; prior to that Gallego had held the office for two years.
According to Texas Secretary of State, 44,372 Democrats came out to vote compared to 30,555 Republicans during the primary. If voters came out in similar numbers in November, the district could be recaptured by Democrats.
Ortiz Jones is also seen to benefit from Democrats generally being energized and flooding to the polls in response to Donald Trump’s presidency. In the March primary, more than 44,000 voters cast ballots in Ortiz Jones’ race, compared to about 31,000 voters in Hurd’s race.
She told HuffPost in January that she decided to run for office out of frustration with Trump. A career civil servant after her military stint, Ortiz Jones worked under presidents in both parties and said she thought she could continue her service under the Trump administration. She ended up being horrified by his policies and the people he hired for top jobs.
“The type of people that were brought in to be public servants were interested in neither the public nor the service,” she said. “That, to me, was a sign that I’m going to have to serve in a different way.”
(To be continued)