Former CSUF professor Phil Janowicz and his quest for one of California’s congressional seats

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(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

Democratic California congressional candidate and former Cal State Fullerton professor Phil Janowicz never forgets to remind his staff that if he ever becomes out of touch, to call him out on it.

“I don’t get called out too often. Jon, do I get called out a lot?” Janowicz shouted across the room to his campaign volunteer Jonathan Davis, a student from University of California, Los Angeles.

“When it’s necessary,” Davis said as he taped a sign to the wall of Janowicz’s office.

In a Downtown Fullerton office space once furnished only with fold-up chairs, a Del Taco bag and maps of California’s 39th Congressional District (for which he was campaigning), Janowicz’s grass roots were showing.

It was the final day of preparations before his campaign office opened its doors to the public Saturday.

The Buena Park resident’s high spirits has made a lasting impression on his “Phil-terns,” as he likes to call them, and has nurtured the atmosphere of his campaign.

“The cool thing about Phil is, he’s always ready to talk to us about any questions we have about policy,” Davis said.

The former Cal State Fullerton chemistry professor released his own poll putting himself in the lead.

“Some people say, ‘That’s one poll,’” Janowicz said. “I say, ‘You’re right. Show me another one.’”

Polls aside, the road hasn’t been perfectly paved for Janowicz.

Janowicz’s former campaign manager Erik Taylor was accused of sexually harassing women during his time as a top official at the Democratic Party of Orange County.

“I got the phone call about the news, and within the hour, he was gone from the campaign,” Janowicz said about Taylor, who resigned in October 2017, just six months after Janowicz announced his candidacy on the CSUF campus.

Janowicz said Taylor’s ousting left the campaign stagnant for a week, but it also opened the door for then-volunteer Alice Cheung to become his campaign manager.

Like some Americans, Janowicz’s morning routine starts with President Donald Trump’s tweets, which he says often dictates the campaign’s daily agenda.

“That tends to set the tone. I wish that were not the case, but it has turned out to be the case,” Janowicz said.

The new office, in Janowicz’s mind, would be the hotbed of all campaign activity.

“I’m all over the place,” Janowicz said. “But I’d try to spend as much of my time (at the office) as possible, because this is where volunteers, staff and interns are. This is where all of the fun happens.”

That fun, according to Janowicz, includes phone banking administered by a field director who makes strategic outreach decisions like writing scripts for phone conversations and door-knocking. Volunteers and interns are put in charge of undertakings like fundraising and studying the logistics of his campaign buttons.

Janowicz said that above all, working at the neighborhood level to “meet people where they are,” is the overarching theme.

“I view it as 14 mayoral races,” Janowicz said, explaining that different cities within the 39th District all have their own socioeconomic factors and demographics. “Yorba Linda is different from Diamond Bar, which is different from south Fullerton.”

In response to criticisms of many elected Congress members becoming out of touch with voters over time, Janowicz describes himself as a grounded person.

“Once government stops representing the people, it stops working,” Janowicz said.

He said he maintains cordiality with his fellow Democratic opponents, and the only Republican opponents he has spoken with are Andrew Sarega and Young Kim.

While Janowicz said that the committees of education and health science are ones he would like to serve on in Washington D.C. should he be elected, he understands he’s a newcomer.

Since Janowicz kicked off his congressional candidacy at CSUF Becker Amphitheater in April 2017, he said his biggest challenge has been going to sleep every night knowing he can’t do everything.

“Being okay with taking half an hour for my own mental break, so I don’t get burned out (is difficult),” Janowicz said. “It’s been ten months, I’m not burned out yet.”

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