Roza Calderon continues underdog bid for Congress

Granite Bay resident still in the race despite comparatively low fundraising, misconduct allegations
By: Graham Womack, Staff Writer
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This is the last in a series of profiles highlighting Democratic challengers in the race for California’s 4th Congressional District. Republican candidates will be profiled in weeks to come.

Click below for our profiles of other candidates:
Jessica Morse
Regina Bateson

Mitchell White
Tom McClintock

While Regina Bateson and Jessica Morse have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and attracted legions of volunteers in the race to represent California's 4th Congressional District, other Democratic candidates have come and gone.

Charlie Brown, the last Democrat to seriously challenge five-term Republican incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock, spoke at a forum May 4 at Democratic Party headquarters in Roseville and then opted not to run, endorsing Morse earlier this week.

Another man from that forum, Bay Area software employee Chris Drew quickly left the race. Roseville attorney Rochelle Wilcox suspended her campaign in November. Another Democrat, Richard Martin, drew groans from some audience members during a debate in October in Rocklin and has seemingly dropped out, missing a debate Jan. 23 in Kings Beach.

Just one other Democratic candidate remains in the race.

This candidate has raised roughly 1/10th of what Bateson and Morse each have. In a conservative district, this candidate might have the most liberal views. She’s also endured allegations detailed by Sacramento News & Review that she embezzled $1,900 as a treasurer for Placer Women Democrats and that she hacked the group’s accounting system to destroy evidence.

But Roza Calderon, a 32-year-old geographic information systems consultant and single mother who lives in a Granite Bay mobile home park, remains undeterred in her race for Congress.

Calderon has the endorsement of Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, two groups that are connected to 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and support progressive candidates.

Asked during a two-hour interview at Bloom Coffee and Tea on Jan. 19 if she was the furthest to the left among the candidates in this race, Calderon said, “I would say so. But you know what that does, it gives us a spectrum of Democrats and the options that we’ve never had in this district before.”

The daughter of a refugee from El Salvador, Calderon said she has a history of activism that dates to the Occupy movement.

“We were out there in Cesar Chavez (Park in Sacramento) all the time,” said Calderon, who said she volunteered on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Activism began to turn to a congressional run sometime around Tom McClintock’s town hall last February in Roseville at Tower Theatre.

The Press Tribune was locked out of this town hall, along with hundreds of other people on Vernon Street, for the first 40 minutes. Video shows Calderon using a megaphone to lead chants of, “Let the media in!” This reporter recalls hearing those chants shortly before being let into the event along with a KCRA reporter and cameraman.

Calderon attended the candidate forum in Roseville on May 4 and announced her candidacy the following day. Part of her reason for jumping into the race, she said, was dissatisfaction with Bateson and Morse’s messages.

“Their message is not about being inconclusive,” Calderon said. “Their message is about really talking about Trump and McClintock and that’s not who I really care about. The people that I want to fight for are the constituents. I want to make sure that people have jobs. I want to make sure that people have the ability to negotiate fair wages and that’s really what I’m fighting for.”

Calderon declined to speak on the record about the allegations against her published in SN&R. An investigation by Roseville police opened in October remains active.

“It involves electronic records … so it can be a very long and (painstaking) process to investigate,” Roseville Police Department spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther said last week.

Calderon took to her campaign’s Facebook page last weekend to note her frustrations at not being in The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the Women’s March that mentioned Bateson and Morse.

“It’s become increasingly clear that my opponents have waged whisper campaigns that cannot be overlooked any longer,” Calderon wrote in reply to a commenter. “Both of them have used dirty tactics in order to tear me down, including their joint effort of telling people I’ve dropped out.”

A few paragraphs later, she added, “My campaign is still doing marvelously against all odds and nonbelievers!”

Asked why she’s putting herself through all this, Calderon said it’s about affecting change.

“I know that as an activist, I have hit a wall of what I can do and how much I can actually influence politics,” she said. “And I think we really need someone in office today that’s going to go up there and call these politicians by what they are, call them that to their face and tell them that they’re lying to the general public.”

Calderon said she just signed a contract to be featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary series. The title: “Underdogs.”