Kenneth Mejia during a campaign rally with Jane Fonda in Los Angeles.
We Filipinos in the Greater Los Angeles Area have many good reasons to celebrate after the elections last Tuesday, November 8. Although not many Filipinos ran in the local elections, most of those who sought seats in their respective cities were leading or have won as of this writing.
Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, leads the list of Filipino-American winners with a resounding victory in his race against Republican Nathan Hochman for a full four-year term as head of the state’s Department of Justice, garnering 57% of the votes.
Bonta, the first Filipino-American to hold the key post, was appointed Attorney General by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year after President Joe Biden appointed then Attorney General Xavier Becerra as health secretary. The California Attorney General post has been known to be an important jumping board to higher state and national posts.
Becerra, as mentioned earlier, became secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He replaced Kamala Harris, who went on to become US senator and now Vice President of the United States. Pat Brown held the post and went on to become California governor. It was the same with his son, Jerry Brown, who was elected as attorney general and later as governor. Another former California attorney general was Earl Warren who went on to become US Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Bonta, son of Filipino immigrants who toiled in the farms of California and worked to attain justice for thousands of farm workers as union organizers and farm activists, has led a colorful political life. He was a member of the California State Assembly representing the 12th District from 2012 to 2021, becoming the first Filipino-American to be elected to the State Legislature. Before that, he was a member of the Alameda City Council from 2010 to 2012.
Bonta is now our best bet for a higher state level post, perhaps even the governorship, or a national level position, maybe as congressman or US senator.
He has been hailed by the Democratic Generals Association as “one of the most active attorneys general in the nation on everything from defending reproductive rights to promoting workers’ rights.”
Another Filipino-American who is going places is 31-year-old political newcomer Kenneth Mejia, who was leading Councilman Paul Koretz by a wide margin in the runoff for Los Angeles City Controller. As of press time, Mejia had 261,832 votes (60.2%) against Koretz’s 168,710 (39.2%).
The city controller serves as Los Angeles’ chief accounting officer, overseeing audits, accounting operations and financial reporting – including submitting reports on the effectiveness of city departments.
Mejia becomes the first and only Filipino-American to hold a major elective position in the city of Los Angeles. He is our best bet for higher positions in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County and, who knows, even state or national posts. He is only 31 and has all the time to build up his just-starting political career.
In Carson, reelectionist Filipino-American Councilwoman Arleen Bocatija Rojas defeated fellow Filipino Fred Docdocil in District 4 council race by a wide margin. Another Filipino, Oscar Ramos, lost to former Carson Mayor and current Councilmember Jim Dear in District 2, also by a wide margin. Rojas remains the only Filipino in the five-man City Council.
In West Covina, former Mayor Letty Lopez ran unopposed for the City Council representing District 2. Another Filipino-American, Ollie Cantos, is leading among the three candidates for City Council District 4 and is projected to become the first blind man to occupy a council seat in the city.
Blind since birth and the son of Filipino immigrants, Ollie was raised in West Covina since age 4. In spite of being bullied as a child and going through other challenges, he eventually became an attorney, making a difference at the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, and the White House.
In Artesia, Mayor Melissa Ramoso won reelection to the City Council. Ramoso led the race for three council seats, topping fellow re-electionists Ali Taj and Rene Trevino, and Alma Griffin.
Ramoso, along with former Cerritos Mayor Mark Pulido, are our best bets for higher posts, possibly for the State Assembly or State Senate in that part of LA County.
In Claremont, former Mayor Jed Leano had a comfortable margin over his rival in the race for the Council seat in District 4.
Newcomer Stephanie Loredo was third among candidates for the three seats up for grabs in the Culver City School Board to possibly become the first Filipino-American member of a school board in west LA.
At the Rowland Unified School District, Agnes Gonzalez, who was appointed as trustee in February last year, won a seat for a full term although her name was in the ballot because her opponent withdrew before the election.
We can see from the results that qualified Filipinos have a good chance of winning local elections, and yet there are very few Filipinos who are running for elective positions. We have to aim for more positions of power and influence in the city level, and higher positions in both the county and state levels.
In the City of Los Angeles, for example, Mejia proved that a qualified and dedicated Filipino candidate could win over veteran LA politicians like Koretz. Being a community activist and organizer, Mejia was able to rally Filipinos in LA to support his candidacy, to volunteer in the campaign, and actually vote for him.
The victory of young Filipinos like Mejia, Ramoso, Leano and Loredo and, yes, Bonta who is still young at 50, also shows that moving forward into the future, we have to look to the younger generation for helping the Filipino community achieve our long-cherished dream of political empowerment in this our adopted country.