SAN FRANCISCO — Vice-Mayor Rob Bonta of the city of Alameda in the East Bay made history when he became the first Filipino-American elected to the California State Assembly in the just concluded general elections.
In one of the closest polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the Golden State, Bonta garnered 50,028 or 50.8 percent of the votes, compared to his District 18 (San Leandro, Alameda and part of Oakland) opponent and fellow Democrat Abel Guillen’s 48,470 or 49.2 percent.
It was a sweet, hard-won victory for Bonta, who won on a four-pronged platform of (1) Improving Public Education in California; (2) Preserving Public Safety; (3) Job Creation, Economic Revitalization, and the Budget; and (4) Ensuring A Strong Social Service Safety Net.
The second child of Filipino labor organizers-parents told supporters he is delighted to be able to finally shatter the “glass ceiling” that for decades has prevented ethnic Filipinos from winning a seat in state’s bicameral legislature — the State Assembly and the Senate.
Another FilAm, first-time candidate Jennifer Ong, narrowly lost to veteran politician Bill Quirk by just 298 votes in District 20 in another toss-up battle. The Pinay optometrist, who ran a surprisingly effective low-cost grassroots campaign, garnered 44,016 votes to Quirk’s 46,294, a margin of just 1.3 percent, according to semi officials returns gathered from State Secretary Laura Bowen’s website as of Wednesday.
A third Pinoy California Assembly bet, Lathrop Mayor Chris Mateo, a Democrat, lost to Republican opponent Kristin Olsen 42,034 votes (38.6 percent) to 66,978 votes (61.4 percent).
2 Filipino mayors
Other FilAm winners in the Bay Area were former three city mayors, including West Sacramento incumbent Mayor Christopher Cabaldon ran unopposed, and the mayors of Milpitas and Union City.
Milpitas Mayor Jose “Joe” Esteves got a fresh mandate, winning by a landslide for yet another term over environmental advocate Rob Means. The 66-year-old Esteves, who first became mayor in 2002, got 8,952 votes or 72 percent against Means’ 3,477.
Union City Councilmember Jim Navarro was reelected Mayor to a third term with 8,558 votes (66.8 percent), more than double his opponent, Jose Estrella’s 4,125 votes.
FilAm Tony Daysog, 44, won a seat in the Alameda City Council, earning 6,200 votes behind front-runner Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, who got 8,642, in a field of seven candidates. Another Pinoy, Stewart Chen, failed to make the cut after placing third with a vote total of 5,855.
Rudy Nasol, a retired college administrator, won the lone seat as trustee for San Jose’s Evergreen Community College District Area 1. Nasol got 11,353 votes or 62.74 percent compared to his opponent Jeremy Sumabon’s 6,742 votes.
Also making it to the Evergreen School District Board was another Filipino, Vince Songcayawon, after he received 8,443 votes. Wendy Ho, who ran unopposed for Area 5, was automatically taken off the ballot and became a trustee for San Jose Evergreen Community College District.
Garry Barbadillo failed to make it to the Milpitas City Council board with 3,545 votes to finish third in a field of seven. The top two vote-getters, incumbent Debbie Giordano (4,207) and Carmen Montano (4,077) earned their seats in the city council.
Others who failed to make it include San Leandro’s Hermy Almonte, who lost in his first crack at for a seat in the City Council District, as did Rebecca de la Cruz Ayson for Daly City Clerk and Thelma Boac for Board Member of the East Side Union High School District.
Dream come true
For Rob Bonta, who was born in Quezon City in 1971, his latest political victory is something he wants to offer to his fellow Filipinos, who strongly supported his candidacy.
Bonta said he grew up in a household that “practiced and honored Filipino culture and traditions and that taught me the value of serving and empowering the Filipino community.”
Even as a child, Bonta had strong connections with unionists because his parents were organizers with the United Farm Workers who worked directly with UFW co-founders and legendary leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and Filipino UFW leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco in La Paz, in California’s Central Valley.
“I spent my early childhood there, and I am proud that my family was part of one of the greatest social justice movements in the history of this country and California,” Bonta said in an earlier interview with FilAm Star.
From his parents and from those great labor leaders, Bonta said he learned that “service to others makes a good life,” a life-changing lesson that had a profound influence on his life and career.
“My father was part of the Civil Rights Movement and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the Deep South. My mother has been a long-time leader in the Filipino social justice movement,” he said with unabashed pride.
“Both of my parents worked for over 50 years combined as state employees serving the people of California … and I am running for state assembly to continue the commitment to public service and the struggle for social justice and progress that my parents were a part of and that I have pursued in my professional career.”