Americas Community

Cabaldon confident in run for California State Senate

By Jun Nucum
SACRAMENTO – The erstwhile Filipino longest serving two-decade mayor of West Sacramento has a lot of confidence going to the race for a juicy spot as California State Senator as he accumulated accomplishments in the past years when  he held the top post in the city and even before that.

A descendant of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Legaspi Albay, Christopher Cabaldon led the transformation of a neglected industrial town into an entrepreneurial city that is now celebrated as “America’s most interesting small city” and recognized as one of the world’s “21 Smart Cities to Watch”— with the nation’s most comprehensive education and economic opportunity program.

A lifelong educator and advocate, Cabaldon served as Vice Chancellor of the 113-campus California Community Colleges, state university professor, and California’s interstate higher education commission while as a former chief of staff in the State Capitol, he claims to know how to get things done and get results.

“I am a small business entrepreneur who has served as an appointee of President Obama and five California governors from both political parties,” Cabaldon shared. “I helped lead the groundbreaking White House celebration of Filipino American Heritage Month, chairing the session on education, mobilized an unprecedented nationwide bipartisan coalition of mayors to fight for the passage of the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, and the Filipino American National Historical Society honored me with its award for Outstanding Historical Contribution.”

Cabaldon was inspired to run in the State Senate as “no Filipino has ever served in the California State Senate and as the dean of America’s Filipino mayors, I worked with close friends like Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and acting Lieutenant Governor Mona Pasquil to cultivate leaders from our community.”

“After mentoring Rob Bonta and Todd Gloria, I was thrilled when they finally broke the barrier as the first Filipinos elected to the Legislature. They’ve made all of us even prouder as Attorney General and Mayor of San Diego, but now Filipinos are invisible again under the Capitol dome. That’s why Filipino community leaders from throughout the district and state encouraged me to run,” Cabaldon said.

Cabaldon said that leading one of the nation’s most successful city transformations has taught him that government can be powerful force to uplift  communities and he is running to be a champion for the towns of the district, fusing his  community and Capitol experience to get it done for  district and for California.

“Thanks to my work partnering with so many communities throughout the district on projects like the Capitol Corridor rail service, freeway improvements, commuter transit, air pollution, climate change, electricity prices, preschool, free community college, bike trails, building housing, and protecting farmland, habitat, and the district’s unique natural legacy, I enjoy the highest profile among district voters. What we have accomplished in West Sacramento is widely known and emulated in communities across all six counties,” he said.

“This is my 15th political campaign and I’ve run at this level before (in the same area). The Senate Democratic Caucus former political director is running the campaign,” stressed Cabaldon.

Asked on what he wanted to achieve, Cabaldon cited the following:

1) For education, Cabaldon cited a need to protect funding for California’s public schools and increase our investment to ensure every California child has access to the best quality public education. California owes its success to its world-class education system, promising universal access to learning and economic mobility, a vibrant citizenry, and ideas and innovation. Today, every Californian knows that some education beyond high school—whether a degree, certificate, or apprenticeship—is as essential as high school itself had become by 1900.

2) On housing, too many Californians cannot afford safe, secure housing in the communities where they work. As the mayor of one of California’s first seven ProHousing-designated cities, I know that it is both urgent and possible to dramatically increase the supply of housing across all of the state—not just downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles.

3) On environment, Senate District 3 is comprised of diverse communities – rural, urban, with rivers, the Delta, and families across the socioeconomic spectrum – and we pride ourselves on our relationship to the land.  The policies we pass must preserve our region’s agricultural identity, safeguard water supplies and ensure clean air.   

“My district is home to more than 75,000 Filipinos, and it is California’s only Senate district where Filipinos are the third largest group (after Whites and Latinos). And among the immediate concerns that I will work on are on the following:

a) Anti-Asian hate — from street violence and transit assaults to political attacks on the loyalty of AAPIs and weaponized legal discrimination scapegoating like property ownership bans. Not only from the direct discrimination, danger, and destruction, but also because these threats induce AAPI social isolation, disempowerment, invisibility, insecurity, and mental health challenges.

B) Filipino entrepreneurs and small businesses are key drivers of economic opportunity and inclusive regional economies, but face unique challenges in access to capital, discrimination, access to procurement and contracts, and language access. Nearly all new net jobs among the AAPI population are created by entrepreneurs, but the pandemic devastated many Filipino small business and revealed systemic vulnerabilities and gaps in state policy.

c) Filipino American history and heritage are at risk in too many communities, as rising housing prices and commercial rents price out iconic community shops, restaurants, and nonprofits. Bulldozers finish the job. We’ve seen this before, with the erasure of Little Manila (and my family’s old soda fountain and pool hall there) and I-House in San Francisco, and now it threatens more and more Filipino cultural spots in my district and beyond.