This will be my last column about the Congressional race I just ran, I promise. But I have some important news to tell you.
It looks like the final vote count is in. According to my campaign manager, I received 55,427 votes. It is a losing number in the absolute sense but let me put it in context and tell you why this is good news.
This must have been one of the worst years for Republicans, especially those running for the House of Representatives. When elections across the nation are finalized, House Republicans may lose as many as 40 seats. California is sending at least six fewer Republican Representatives to Congress (they have none in the Senate.) On top of all that, Republican registration in the 14thdistrict of California has been on an inexorable decline for three decades. Republican registration was 17.12% in 2012; it was 14.4% by the 2018 primary. And by the time ballots were sent out for the general election, Republican registration dropped further to 13.58%.
Against that backdrop of ever-diminishing Republican presence, against the backdrop of a Trump presidency that is offensive to most people in this district, I received the highest number of votes in 24 years. That includes the entirety of this decade as well as the years that this was district 12 and represented by Tom Lantos. Twenty-four years ago, the seat had recently been converted from a Republican-held seat.
Sure, higher turnout had something to do with it. But higher turnout and all those provisional and absentee ballots that flipped traditionally Republican seats in other districts to the Democratic candidate, tend to vote Democrat. Every extra Republican vote was the fruit of personal labor. It was the result of hard campaigning, handshaking, laying out my arguments, and standing in public places and passing out flyers.
More importantly, it was the result of up to as many as 100 volunteers, mostly Kababayan, passing out my flyers, passing on the word, spreading their enthusiasm. As the vote count crept up during the post election weeks, as I first surpassed all the midterm challenger candidates and then, finally, all the Presidential year candidates (when turnout is higher) for the last 24 years, I have been overwhelmed by the greatness of the community that stood behind me. I am humbled by the scale of its achievement. I am reminded of how small I actually am compared to the task that was achieved.
This may be an accomplishment that will be hardly noticed. It will be buried under the headlines of defeat. But no Republican challenger (that is not Pinoy) will be able to achieve this vote number again in District 14. And, finally, this begs the question that should be reverberating through the Filipino Community:
If this was achieved with a Republican candidate, what if the next Pinoy challenger were a Democrat? Could we win the seat with the wind at our back? If there is someone out there (who is a centrist-leaning Democrat) who is interested in this challenge, I’ll raise my hand to be part of your team. We need to keep trying. Buried in the details of my campaign, is a future victory for a future Filipino candidate.