Fate Led Opponent to Politics

Political novice and real estate agent Ely Dela Cruz Ayao had been hospitalized in intensive care for nine nights with a life-threatening virus of the nervous system when he started bargaining with God: If I survive this, he prayed, I will do whatever I am called to do.

Six months later, after he had recuperated from Guillain-Barre syndrome, he says, God responded. A member of the Republican Party in the northeast Valley approached him about running for the 39th Assembly District seat. A real estate broker since 1987 and owner of First World Realty, Ayao was dumbfounded by the prospect. But the two spent some time discussing crime, education and housing. Soon, Ayao was convinced that this was his end of the bargain with God. He agreed to run, despite the fact that the 39th District, which runs from Sylmar to Sun Valley, is predominantly Democratic. In the March Republican primary, he ran unopposed. He now faces Cindy Montanez in the November election.

“The reason we are having the problems we are having now,” said Ayao, 51, who lives in Panorama City, “is because we have a Legislature that is dominantly Democratic and a governor who is Democratic. Whatever the governor wants, he gets. I would like to be the voice out there who says no to things. Since my line is business and corporate management, I think I can use that expertise to help run this government better.”

Born in the Philippines, Ayao earned a bachelor’s degree in business and immigrated to California in 1985. He is married to Marilu Beltran, a registered nurse, and they have five children. One of the founding members of the Philippine Jaycees of L.A., he has received several humanitarian awards.

As a legislator, Ayao says his priorities would be crime prevention, affordable health care and affordable education.


“I know that, despite her age, Cindy Montanez is well-versed in governance,” he said. “But this is an era of first-timers. The issues I’m concerned with are universal issues, not partisan issues. People