Two weeks ago on election night, congressional candidate Giil Cisneros gave a quick stump speech at a big union hall in Buena Park. “We’re going to restore sanity back to government,” he told supporters before heading off to his next event. “The wave that’s coming to California wouldn’t have happened without your hard work.” But it seemed like whatever Blue Wave awaited OC would carry on without him in the 39th congressional district. The early ballot count that night gave his Republican opponent Young Kim a sizable lead in the race for retiring congressman Ed Royce’s seat, one that held until last Thursday.
“It’s been a long two years, and two weeks,” Democrat Phil Janowicz joked from the podium during a victory rally yesterday. “How many of you remember on election night where we’re there at the party and the first results came in? I was looking around the room and people were not feeling very good.” Janowicz recounted reacting differently; he gave people high-fives and believed the math was in Cisneros’ favor.
By the time congressman-elect Cisneros returned to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 hall in Buena Park yesterday afternoon, the math proved Janowicz right by returning a lead of 4,442 votes over Kim, good for a 51-49 percent margin of victory–the most consequential set of numbers in Cisneros’ life since he bought a winning line for a $266 million Powerball jackpot in 2010.
The Associated Press officially called the closely contested race on Saturday, the same day Kim graciously conceded defeat. By then, Democrats claimed victory in three of the big four OC congressional races. “We just kept chipping away,” a triumphant Cisneros told supporters. “Once we took the lead, there was no looking back.”
Elected officials, union leaders and local Democrat Party activists gathered at the hall for the victory speech. Newly reelected Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva warmed the crowd up and gave a shout out to former congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who she introduced as a Democratic candidate for the Orange County Board of Supervisors seat opened up by Todd Spitzer’s defeat of district attorney Tony Rackauckas.
But after that, the afternoon’s thrill belonged to Gil with all the OC’s Blue Wave “bluphoria.”
Cisneros proclaimed that as congressman, he’d join his colleagues in championing comprehensive immigration reform and common sense gun legislation while protecting Social Security and Medicare. Each promise brought about a raucous applause from supporters. “One thing we’re going to make sure that we do is protect our healthcare system,” Cisneros said. “We’re going to protect those with pre-existing conditions and make sure they get the medical care that they deserve and that they need.”
The 39th congressional district race drew intrigue and not just for its Blue Wave prospects in helping Democrats win a majority in the House of Representatives. Representing northern Orange County alongside Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, the district proved to be a diverse electorate between whites, Latinos and Asian-Americans. The Cisneros campaign also deemed the race as the most expensive in the country, claiming their candidate faced more than $10 million in outside spending.
The big bucks went both ways. According to ProPublica’s Election Datatbot, Cisneros spent $10.5 million (with less than 1 percent of his total war chest coming from political action committees), placing him first among all House of Representatives candidates in California and fifth nationwide in the regard.
Kim claimed the majority of the district’s OC votes but Cisneros kept things close while getting a big assist from LA county voters, good enough to send him to Washington D.C.
“I never really ever thought I’d run for congress,” Cisneros said. “I’m so excited to get there, to do the work, to give you the representation that you deserve, that you have been lacking for a long time. Let’s go make America–well America is great, it’s always been great, but we’re going to make it better!”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!