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Political newcomer Jay Chen hopes to unseat Ed Royce in 39th District

October 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A political newcomer hopes redistricting will help him unseat incumbent Congressman Ed Royce. They are both running in District 39, which now covers cities in northeastern Orange County, southeastern L.A. County and Chino Hills.

Jay Chen, a Harvard graduate and commercial property manager, has been reaching out to college students.

"We need younger people to get involved. Congress would be different if young people voted in the numbers that they had," Chen said. "We would have a much more moderate system."

The 34-year-old officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve served as president of the Hacienda La Puente School Board. The Democrat is considered a political rookie compared to Royce, the 61-year-old Republican incumbent.

After nearly 20 years in Congress, a decade before that as a California state senator, Royce is seen as having an advantage in a district where the GOP has an 8-percent lead.

"I see the campaign going very well for us right now. We have the momentum," Royce said.

The newly drawn 39th Congressional District includes several cities Royce has never represented. Chen, who speaks Mandarin and Spanish, hopes to attract voters in those communities. The district is now 30 percent Asian and 30 percent Latino.

"My opponent is very anti-immigrant. He wants English-only laws for all federal services, including balloting," Chen said.

Royce defended himself, saying, "What I support is English as the official language for the United States."

"I certainly support providing services," he added.

Royce leads in fundraising, with more than $2.5 million. Chen has raised more than $600,000, getting help from a super pac called America Shining set up by his brother Shaw.

"My brother is not going to ask anything of me. We haven't talked about the campaign because we can't," Chen said.

But Royce questioned whether Chen was telling the truth. By law, pac spending cannot be coordinated with a candidate. A supporter of Royce has filed a complaint against Chen with the Federal Election Commission.

"He's supporting me because he's family, but I can't say the same for all these corporations that have put millions of dollars into Ed Royce's campaign coffers," Chen said.

Chen criticized Royce for raising nearly 40 percent of his money from pacs, according to the Federal Election Commission.

While some consider Chen a long shot, Royce says he's not taking anything for granted. Both are working hard to win votes.


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