DOWNEY − Roman Gonzalez likes accepting challenges – and just a one glance at his resume will prove it.
While his friends and classmates marched off the high school graduation stage and headed straight to college, Gonzalez marched into uniform instead, serving two deployments in the U.S. Air Force.
Nearly 10 years later, Gonzalez, 27, is ready for a new assignment: U.S. congressman from the 40th district.
“It’s hard to get people to take you seriously when you’ve never run before,” Gonzalez said. “But this is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Gonzalez is the only challenger to veteran congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who is up for reelection this November. Although the Downey native recognizes the difficulty of running against a longtime incumbent – Roybal-Allard was first elected in 1993 – Gonzalez said he hopes voice the concerns of millennials, a voting bloc he feels is fed up with the status quo.
“One family has been in office for 50 years. That’s not a government of the people,” he said in reference to Roybal-Allard’s predecessor, her father Rep. Edward Roybal, who served for 30 years representing large swaths of East L.A. and cities in Southeast L.A. County.
“Maybe people are happy with them or maybe people have just given up.”
If elected, Gonzalez said he wants to stop career politicians by pushing for term limits in Congress. It’s a proposal supported by nearly 75% of Americans, according to Gallup, and Gonzalez assures voters he will champion that reform as well as cutting the salary of congressional representatives.
“Government is not a career,” he said. “As representatives, we should live like everyone else and lead by example.”
His platform also includes advocating for more fiscal responsibility in federal spending by promoting a culture of rewards for cost-saving measures.
“I’m also big on heath,” said Gonzalez, who just graduated last week from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in health science. “Our district has a lot of problems with obesity and diabetes. I like what First Lady Michelle Obama started with her Let’s Move campaign. We need a program like that here.”
The 40th congressional district stretches from South L.A. over to East L.A. and down through Downey and Bellflower. Albeit a reliably democratic area, Gonzalez is running independent of any party. He believes voters are fed up with party politics.
“If I ran as a Democrat or Republican, I’d have to push what the party wants – and not the right answer,” he said. “We have to compromises and work together. That’s what we have to do in the military.”
Scattered across the Facebook page of his campaign is the slogan “#BringThePowerBack.” Gonzalez hopes his campaign will empower people by shifting the focus to those disillusioned with the current process.
“I definitely want to change that and inspire others to get involved,” he said. “People asked me why I didn’t start small by running for city council. I’m always reaching for more. I’m always up for a challenge. Why not shoot for the top?”