As any parent knows, watching your kid grow reminds you of time, past and future. I wonder what his future will look like. Will his future be better than our present?
I remember what it was like growing up in struggle and scarcity. These hopeless moments were only brightened by my bold faith in the audacity of the human spirit. Hope, hard work, and helping hands is my American story.
I’m the product of a love found in the pursuit of the American Dream. My mom and dad came from Mexico to meet in Southside Chicago. My mom pulled my abuelita across the Rio Grande; my dad snuck under a Vanderbilt semi-truck’s hood. Soon after they met they had to go back to Mexico.
In Mexico my dad built a small business with a van and a pregnant employee, my mom. During a fateful trip to Oakland, I decided to be born in the Santa Cruz valley. As I grew up in Mexico I saw my mother organize her working-class community to do good. They’d cut hair for the homeless, feed the incarcerated, and teach adults to read and write. My dad taught me to have hope in uncertainty, and my mom taught me to work hard for your community.
At 17, I left Mexico and traveled north to the U.S., alone. I was thousands of miles away from nearly everyone I knew. I went to school by day and worked by night. I mopped factory floors, cooked during the graveyard shift, and worked the phones at a call center. I worked every hour available, yet I straddled the poverty line like a tightrope. Every flat tire sent me further into debt.
I got lucky and was accepted to a small college in Moraga despite my mediocre grades. I started a new life in the Bay Area and have been here for nearly twenty years. During that time I’ve organized my community, built a career in mission-driven organizations, and started a family that feeds my soul every day.
I went from being close to eviction and ruin to being able to serve my brothers and sisters.
But that opportunity for a better life has evaporated for many in California, and the pandemic has only made that worse.
The 10th Senate District, my home, is a microcosm of our state’s broken promises.
The number of people experiencing homelessness will double every few years.
Educators in Milpitas can’t afford to live near their work, so they don’t get to see their families.
The gap between the rich and poor in San Lorenzo is wider than most cities in America.
Poor and minority students in Union City are left behind, forced to live a harsher life than their wealthy peers.
And now because of COVID-19, the equity gains we’ve made are evaporating. Small businesses are being eaten up by big business. Young people are punished with another dim job market. The digital divide is leaving a generation of kids further behind.
There are two very different Californias. We have the most billionaires and the most children going to bed hungry. The 7th largest GDP globally has a wealth gap not far from Mexico’s.
How did we get here?
Special interests have tyrannized Sacramento’s agenda. Too many of our elected representatives are more worried about political fallout than about meaningful change. We lack of courage and grit at the Capitol.
But I’m not here to talk about what has gone wrong, but about what must go right.
I believe a government should answer to all of its people, not just the well-funded. I will never accept a penny of corporate money.
I believe educators are our greatest nation builders. Funding for education must be a top priority every year.
I believe we can break the poverty cycle by working on two-generation solutions. We can offer relief today and get to the root of the problem to prevent it tomorrow.
I believe we can lift people off the streets, give young families a chance at the middle class, and help working families feel housing stability. We don’t have one, but three housing crises to solve.
I believe high quality education should be affordable from cradle to career. Education must prepare our children for a world we have not yet even imagined.
I believe all public servants, whether they wield power with a pen, gavel, or gun, must empower their community, not the other way around.
I believe business can thrive with a triple bottom line focused on people, planet, and profit. As the son of an entrepreneur, I want California to be the world capital for small business.
I believe we can lead more boldly on climate change. It is the most important issue of our time. We can create a green path for every part of our economy, in particular our building block industries.
I believe we need more people representing the different voices that make California so special. All communities should see their life stories in the halls of power.
I believe in bringing people together and never excluding allies because they don’t pass a litmus test. I will hear and respect everyone’s opinion, even if I disagree with it.
I am not a career politician, nor do I want to be.
I bring a fresh perspective, an immigrant’s hustle, a servant leader’s mindset, and a goal to do good, not to keep my seat.
I’m a principled business leader who leads organizations to do well and good. I’ve also advised many Fortune 500 companies to do the same.
I’m an advocate of working families and I’ve mobilized resources to serve thousands of families in California.
I’m an organizer who lifts people up. I’ve done this for people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, Black and brown youth in need of mentorship, and the undocumented.
I serve those without hope and help, because I know what it’s like to have neither.
I’m running because stories like mine are missing in the halls of power.
I’m running because I believe most of us are reaching for a brighter future.
But at the end of the day I’m running for my son.
I became a father in 2016. Since then I’ve watched some people declare that people like my wife and my little brown boy don’t belong in America. But America isn’t just a people, but an idea that enchanted my entire family. It’s the idea that together we can make a more perfect union. America’s beauty lies in its relentless pursuit of prosperity for all.
This is the California I want for our kids. A California that is generous, innovative, and truly representative of its people. This is the California our children may get to live in.
I want you to join me in building this brighter vision for tomorrow together.