Recognizing the obstructionism hampering the federal government, young and ambitious Democratic candidate Jay Chen spoke to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Cal State Fullerton, Thursday, about changing the political atmosphere in Congress.
Chen, 33, faces a tough task this November as he attempts to knock the Republican incumbent Ed Royce from a congressional seat he has held since 1992. Citing his own polls from last December as reason for optimism, Chen said his campaign has an eight-point advantage in the newly redrawn 39th district, contradicting the district’s voting registration numbers of 32 percent Democrat and 40 percent Republican.
“I think times are changing… people who would call themselves Republican in the past no longer feel like they have a place in this party, including Ronald Reagan, if he was still alive,” said Chen. “The party is moving too far right.”
Royce did not attend the public forum. Chair of the OLLI-CSUF collaboration committee Ron Osajima said Royce was invited to speak, but phone calls were never returned.
Royce’s campaign has piled up $3 million for his re-election bid, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Chen was fervent in his remarks about the current congressman’s voting record in which Chen said Royce supports deregulation, voting to cut federal pell grant fundings and voting against bonuses for military veterans.
“It’s a real shame that he couldn’t be here today to also present his view. I might drag a chair up here and start talking to the chair,” Chen said, mocking the infamous Clint Eastwood speech at the recent Republican National Convention.
Chen, a Hacienda Heights native and self-described progressive, was elected in 2007 to the Hacienda school board. He and three other members faced a controversial recall election in 2011 because they approved an initiative to bring in funds to expand a Chinese language learning class.
The activists claimed the board was trying to implement Chinese communist notions into their curriculum by accepting money from the Chinese government to fund the school’s program, Chen said.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart caught wind of the recall efforts in 2010 and joked about the program’s efforts to teach the mandarin language to students, citing that the board was trying to brainwash them with communism.
Chen appeared on the show as a stunned board member, trying to figure out why anyone would not want to let kids learn about Chinese culture.
Chen, who is fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, said learning more than one language is an important aspect for a young developing mind.
His parents immigrated to America from Taiwan because his father received a scholarship to study at the University of Pennsylvania.
Chen was born in Michigan and grew up in the Midwest before his family made it to what he calls their “promised land,” Los Angeles.
Regarding immigration, Chen supports a federal guest workers program to address the labor needs in jobs that Americans do not want to fill. He also feels that without a program, immigrants are being exploited with low pay and little worker’s rights.
He also supports the Dream Act, which would automatically make children who were brought to the country illegally, American citizens.
Chen said the U.S. shouldn’t be like Japan in their stringent immigration policy.
Grant Hovey, a retired special agent for the IRS and UCLA graduate, decided to support the Chen campaign when his community in La Habra was pushed into the 39th district with the recent realignment.
Hovey noted Chen’s optimism in changing the partisan bickering in Congress.
“They are dogmatic, especially when it comes to taxes,” said Hovey.
The Tea Party and members of the Republican Party, which Royce has been affiliated with, also signed a pledge to never increase taxes, causing stalemate in Congress in regards to economic legislation and deficit reduction measures.
“There is no way you can properly govern this district by just being completely one sided, voting always on one side of the issue,” Chen said. “I’m going to have my set of principles, but I’m going to always listen to what people are saying.”