INDIO – The epicenter of one of the biggest upsets in the Nov. 6 election was located here where a 28-year-old political novice toppled a four-year incumbent for a term on the Indio City Council representing District 4.
Oscar F. Ortiz garnered 57.91 percent of the vote, or 710 votes. His competitor, Incumbent Troy Strange, received 42.09 percent of the vote, or 516 votes, according to unofficial results from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters.
While it was a surprise to some, it was exactly the outcome Ortiz wanted – and expected.
“We put so much work into this campaign,” Ortiz told Uken Report. “We’ve been knocking on doors since August. This is what we were hoping for. I am just glad and relieved that we received that much support. Seeing the results are amazing.”
At 28, Ortiz is the youngest candidate ever to be elected to the Indio City Council, according to City Clerk Sabdi Sanchez. The news was a surprise to Ortiz. He is a graduate of Stanford University.
He will be sworn into office on Dec. 12.
No stranger to Indio, Ortiz has lived in the community for 17 of his 28 years.
In the run-up to the election, Ortiz said he wanted to use his education and experience for the benefit of the people of Indio.
“I see a need for better representation for our lower-income communities in Indio,” Ortiz told Uken Report. “I also see a need for better community engagement; and we’re showing people how it can and should be done through our campaign efforts.”
His first priority is to find a way to build more affordable housing and prioritize it for Indio, Ortiz said Wednesday.
One of his signature issues in the campaign was poverty. Many residents can’t afford the rising costs of housing and healthcare and could face displacement. He performed some calculations with residents’ information and learned that a family of three would need both parents to make at least $20 an hour 40 hours a week just to meet their basic needs with a two-bedroom apartment.
That doesn’t include clothing, going out to eat, healthcare expenses not covered by insurance, car maintenance, or any other expenses that may come up, according to Ortiz. That $20 an hour for both parents, which correlates to about $75,000 for the household, and our city data shows that 75 percent of our residents don’t make that kind of money.
“This equation doesn’t make sense,” Ortiz said. “Fifty percent of our residents won’t be able to make ends meet, but also won’t be able to qualify for assistance programs. Our job is to fix the equation.”
Ortiz’s solution is to bring in better paying jobs and provide more training programs for better paying jobs.
He knows what it’s like to live in Indio neighborhoods and attend the community’s schools.
“I’ve seen the obstacles in District 4 firsthand and the residents we talk to can see that we share their same concerns and are really working to understand their issues and deal with them efficiently,” Ortiz said. “I want to have office hours, door-knocking, phone banking, and social media efforts to keep the community engaged and to keep tailoring our public policy to the needs of the residents.”