Claiming his Harvard education enlightened him, Mark A. Takano '83 has turned Democrat to seek a congressional seat in Southern California's upcoming elections.
Takano, a Republican throughout college, now finds himself the Democratic contender in a closely paired race for the 43rd congressional district of Riverside County.
"My whole family is Republican and I was a Republican all the way through college," Takano said. "But my Harvard education really had an impact. It truly made me smarter. I became a Democrat," he said.
Takano said he bucked the trend of the 1980s, when more and more college students adopted the Republican platform.
His original plans to be a Republican-affiliated lawyer fell through when he saw the party no longer had a place for him.
"They [Republicans] were so ideologically conservative, both economically and culturally," said Takano. "They lost their pragmatism."
Takano cited Central America, trickle-down economics, the pro-life position and treatment of minority groups as issues that influenced his political conversion.
"From the minorities point of view, the Republicans were incredibly divisive in their rhetoric," Takano said. "Most minorities felt they lost any sort of representation in the government."
Takano's altered politics have forged an insider/outsider political battle in Riverside.
He said his opponent represents development, which has been extreme with the influx of Los Angelenos and Orange County residents seeking more affordable housing.
But Takano said 70 percent of Riverside residents think their county has grown too fast and like developers "about as much as they like congressmen."
The Harvard graduate is a Democratic outsider in a county which favors Republics to Democrats 46 to 42 percent in voter registration.
Takano seeks one of the seven new congressional seats created by reapportionment in California.
"If I win this seat it will be a major upset," Takano said.
If Takano does win, he will face the problems engendered by Riverside's rapid growth. Traffic and crime have increased, as has unemployment, which currently stands at 15 percent.