Osmeña kin seeks U.S. Congress seat
CALIFORNIA, USA – The Osmeña name is synonymous to political power in the Philippines, and Cristina Osmeña wants to extend the family fame across the Pacific to California.
The great granddaughter of former president Sergio Osmeña is seeking to represent San Mateo County or District 14 of the United States House of Representatives.
The County is home to 772,000 people, including Filipino Americans living in Daly City, and has been a Democratic Party bastion for over 60 years.
As the lone Republican candidate, Osmeña advanced easily to the November 6 finals. To get there, she had to go on the ballot in the June 5 primaries, where she collected 32,054 votes or 20.6% of the total count. Her opponent, fellow Hillsborough resident Jackie Speier, 68, received 123,900 votes or 79.4%, according to Ballotpedia.
The results impressed Fil-Am political observers like Francis Espiritu, publisher of Philippine News, where Osmeña writes a weekly column.
"For a first-time candidate running for no less than the US Congress to get over 20% is an achievement," said Espiritu, whose newspaper endorsed Osmeña in a November 2 editorial that urged readers to vote for fellow Filipinos.
But District 14 resident and political capitalist Guy Guerrero wonders why Osmeña is "wasting her money running against the sitting representative."
Osmeña is challenging a seasoned politician who is beloved to the Filipino-American community. Speier was first elected to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors in 1980, the State Assembly in 1986, and then the State Senate. She lost a bid for Lieutenant Governor before topping a special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Congress member Tom Lantos.
Osmeña has not held public office. She has worked in finance, dabbles in writing, and states her current profession as a solar energy industry executive. But on hot-button issues, she has clear and strong opinions. Here are her official positions on some key issues, as posted on her website:
"An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants cannot all be painted with one brush. A portion of them, such as the Dreamers and economic immigrants, deserve a path to citizenship. A portion of them, with criminal records, should be deported and penalized, not protected, by political correctness. Finally, some of them are not here of their own freewill but have been victimized by others. These immigrants, victims of labor and sex trafficking, need our help.
"I believe a woman has autonomy over her own body. I also support increased funding for adoptive services across the public and nonprofit sectors to increase a woman's portfolio of choices. The fight for women's rights is not over until pay is equal, women comprise 50% of all boards and C-level positions, and a woman is President of the United States.
"The federal government has managed to overhaul the tax system but has not yet addressed the growing national debt which has doubled during the last administration after doubling in the administration prior to that. The debt continues to grow with each rushed budget compromise. It is time to reign in irresponsible spending by the federal government without sacrificing those in need of entitlements.
"Preserving the environment for our quality of life and the legacy we leave behind should be an issue that should be prioritized across both aisles. Water quality and supply in California are paramount, particularly the need for increased water storage capacity.
"Assault weapons should be banned from the public.
"Congress should shrink the size of the Department of Education by transferring the student loan and grant programs to the Treasury Department and job training programs to the Department of Labor.
"Housing in the Bay Area has become the single biggest input to the high cost of living in our district. At the root of the problem is a long-term reluctance to increase housing density and multi-family housing heights. Population growth has outstripped housing supply. At the same time, half of new real estate sales come from overseas. In these cases, properties are used as second homes or investment vehicles."
Osmeña said she does not oppose building that notorious border wall because a "sovereign nation has a right to protect its own borders and the rights of the people within them."
The daughter of former senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III and Marilita Barreto, she was 6 years old when her mother immigrated with her and her brother Sergie IV to California in 1975.
Three years earlier, her father was imprisoned with enemies of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. In 1977, Serge escaped from detention with Eugenio Lopez Jr. After Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, Serge ran for the Philippine Senate and served 3 terms. His father was former senator Sergio "Serging" Osmeña Jr, who ran for president against Marcos.
Cristina Osmeña is candid about the absence of a relationship with her father. She calls her childhood "unstable and tempestuous with many changes in our family configuration."
To this writer, she described her interaction with her father as "none," and her relationship with her mother as "volatile but engaged." Indeed, Marilita Barreto has been visible and supportive throughout her daughter's campaign.
After graduating from high school in 1987, Cristina said she audited classes at Ateneo de Manila for 3 semesters, dropped out, and returned to California.
At 20 years old, she said she found a job in the accounting department of a San Francisco apartment complex. Around that time, she got accepted and earned a BA in English at UC Berkeley on financial aid.
How the English major ended up in finance is mystifying and speaks of her ability to learn fast and from the experts. Soon, she earned her certification as a chartered financial analyst, earning what her peers in journalism can only dream about.
"I originally wanted to become a reporter and thought I would write for the rest of my life," she told this writer early in her campaign. "I was consumed by a career on Wall Street and this took 200% of my attention."
She and husband Steve O'Rourke led a bi-coastal household, shuttling between New York and California as co-owners of a solar energy company. They are parents to Julian and Lizzie, her campaign "chiefs of staff."
The former political refugee echoes the conservative position of less-government as foremost among her reasons for joining the Grand Old Party: "My family left the Philippines to flee a power-hungry dictator and came to the land of freedom. For me, defending that freedom is worth the trouble. That includes not being micromanaged by the government or one of its faceless regulators, not being told when to have lunch or how long it should be, not being told how to drink my soft drinks and what size they should be."
She declares herself "Republican" fiscally and "classic liberal" socially.
"Fiscal responsibility and empathy are not mutually exclusive," she said on her website.
"A society needs to care for its disadvantaged and speak for the silenced. I am an advocate and a contributor to the diversity of our district. The environment must be protected. Finally, the fight for women's equality is not over until a woman is sitting in the Oval Office," she added.
If the candidate were Republican, she might qualify.
Besides the fact that her Wall Street guru Gerald Gold had convinced her she had the compelling story of which political legends are made, coupled by lessons from Republican leaders Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, and Devin Nunes, Osmeña's decision to strike in 2018 stemmed from what she views as the incumbent's Achilles' heel.
She notes Speier's "constituent responsiveness" but questions why, "after 10 years, she doesn't seem to have introduced a lot of sponsored bills that have been turned into law…at least that I can find on the public archives."
If elected, Osmeña said she would "be more of a Capitol-facing representative."
"I would like to argue the needs of California and the Bay Area inside the Republican caucus where the Bay Area, in particular, could really use an advocate," she vowed.
"If they do get around to immigration reform, I would like to argue the needs of California using arguments the Republicans will understand."
Fil-Am publications were not the only ones to notice the intrepid Filipina. InStyle featured Osmeña as "This Republican Candidate Could Be the First Filipina in Congress" in its October 18, 2018 issue, and Glamour counted her alongside New York gubernatorial bet Cynthia Nixon.
Whatever happens on November 6, Osmeña and her supporters are gathering at a South San Francisco restaurant to catch election results at $30 a ticket, advance purchase required. – Rappler.com