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Former Obama administration employee Sam Jammal is running in Orange County's 39th Congressional District, saying his immigrant background is representative of its constituents.
Jammal, 35, of Fullerton, was raised in La Mirada by a Colombian mother and Jordanian father. The district has a heavy Latino and Asian population.
“This is where I grew up, so it’s personal,” Jammal said. "I know these communities and I know their values.”
He graduated from USC with a political science degree and attended George Washington University Law School before working with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“I wanted to work in civil rights and make sure my communities had a seat at the table," he said.
He worked as legislative counsel to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and as chief of staff to Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) and was special assistant to the undersecretary for industry and security in Obama's Commerce Department. Most recently, he's worked as regulatory counsel at Tesla.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) had held the seat for 13 terms. It is one of several Republican-controlled districts that backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and present turnover potential for 2018.
Jammal joins other Democratic challengers to Royce — pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran, former chemistry professor Phil Janowicz and philanthropist Gil Cisneros — as well as independent candidate Julio Castañeda.
"We’re going to run a campaign that gets back into the community," Jammal said, promising "old-fashioned organizing."