United States

Fil-Am California assembly hopeful Jessica Caloza looks to break glass ceiling

Jannelle So Productions

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Fil-Am California assembly hopeful Jessica Caloza looks to break glass ceiling
Even with her deep political background, Caloza still says she deals with stigma as a minority and a woman seeking elected office

This story is published in partnership with SoJannelleTV, a magazine show about Filipinos in North America

In Los Angeles, a sprawling metropolis with a significant Filipino population, having representation in government is essential to having your concerns heard.

That’s why it’s significant that Jessica Caloza, a Quezon City-born candidate, is running for the California State Assembly in an area that covers East and Northeast Los Angeles. Should she win, she would become the first Filipino woman ever elected to the California state legislature.

The first-time candidate sat down to speak with Filipino-American media pioneer Jannelle So-Perkins for an interview with So Jannelle TV to discuss her campaign and the challenges she has faced in breaking through.

Despite being on the ballot for the first time, Caloza is no stranger to public service. The University of California graduate had served with the Obama Administration in the US Department of Education and had also worked in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office under Eric Garcetti. She ran for the open seat in District 52, finishing first in the primary election on March 5 with 29.8% of the vote, which advances her to the general election against second place candidate and fellow Democrat Francisco Carrillo Jr. on November 5. 

Fil-Am California assembly hopeful Jessica Caloza looks to break glass ceiling

She says the issues that drive her are the ones that first made America appeal to her as a place to pursue prosperity, like funding the public education system, supporting small businesses and building housing that allows people to live close to where they work. Even with her deep political background, and the endorsements of prominent politicians like Congressman Ted Lieu and Attorney General Rob Bonta, Caloza still says she deals with stigma as a minority and a woman seeking elected office.

“I’m running for the very first time and feel honored to have been able to have this opportunity.  But I am an immigrant, I am a woman, a woman of color so there’s lots of barriers and stereotypes that I face in running. I definitely get questioned a lot like, do you have the experience, are you qualified enough, do I look the part, all those things that I face even prior to running, you see play out on the campaign trail,” said Caloza.

Caloza can identify with the struggles of those in her district. She first immigrated to the United States at age four, moving into her grandfather’s tiny home. She saw firsthand how effective government can make a material difference in a person’s life.

“Here we actually had a real pathway to the middle class. We had access to better healthcare, housing, education, and so much more. Government changed my life and I know that it can change the lives of so many other people like me and families like mine,” said Caloza.

Her platform includes securing sufficient funding for public schools, which she says shaped her life from elementary level to high school and college, and protecting funding for Planned Parenthood. Another priority is supporting small businesses, and investing in affordable housing.

“How do we really make sure that we protect families? By continuing to build more housing in our cities and our counties so that people actually live a lot closer to where they work, where they do business and where they play. Because what we are finding right now is a lot of people live further and further away from where they actually work,” said Caloza.

To break through in her campaign, Caloza is building a coalition that includes, not just Filipinos and Asian-Americans, but a multicultural and interfaith mix of communities that will be representative of her district.

“What I want to demonstrate is that, not only am I the most viable candidate but that Filipinos can lead not just a Filipino community and the Asian community, but we can lead with everyone, for everyone,” said Caloza. – Jannelle So Productions | Rappler.com

Rappler is partnering with Jannelle So Productions Inc (JSP), founded by Filipino-American pioneer and Los Angeles-based journalist Jannelle So, to publish video and written stories from SoJannelleTV about the journeys, successes, and challenges of Filipinos living in America.

Check out So Jannelle TV daily for stories that make you pause, reflect, and appreciate who we are and what we are as a people.

Sundays, 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET on The Filipino Channel (TFC)
Mondays, 6:00pm on KNET Channel 25.1 Southern California
Replay on Saturdays, 7:30pm PT / 10:30pm ET on ANC North America
Any time on YouTube.com/SoJannelleTV

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