Cam­paign is his new class­room

Fuller­ton pro­fes­sor quits tenured job to run for Congress

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Melissa Healy melissa.healy@la­times.com

Phil Janow­icz might have been your fa­vorite chem­istry teacher in col­lege. His youth­ful en­thu­si­asm, sense of hu­mor and will­ing­ness to chat are as clear as the safety glasses on his nose.

But this for­mer Cal State Fuller­ton chem­istry pro­fes­sor is now look­ing to form a dif­fer­ent kind of bond — with the Orange County vot­ers he hopes to rep­re­sent in Wash­ing­ton.

The 33-year-old Janow­icz is go­ing af­ter a big tar­get: Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Ed Royce, who was first elected to rep­re­sent Cal­i­for­nia’s 39th District in 1992 and who chairs the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

Janow­icz, a Demo­crat, an­nounced his can­di­dacy in April at an am­phithe­ater in the heart of the univer­sity’s campus. It was some­thing he had been mulling for a long time, and the turn­ing point came on Nov. 8.

Janow­icz and his wife were watch­ing the elec­tion re­turns, geared up for a Hil­lary Clin­ton vic­tory. But as it be­came clear that Don­ald Trump had won, An­gela Janow­icz turned to Phil and told him he should go for it.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” she said. “It’ll be our next ad­ven­ture.”

To ready him­self, Janow­icz re­luc­tantly left his tenured teach­ing po­si­tion at Cal State Fuller­ton. Jump­ing in “head first” was the only proper way to take on a chal­lenge like this, he said.

“There were so many things I wanted to do to help in this com­mu­nity,” he said. “Teach­ing chem­istry only went so far.”

But Janow­icz said he would con­tinue to think like a sci­en­tist — a habit that would pro­tect him from suc­cumb­ing to ide­o­log­i­cal rigid­ity. “My mind can be changed by data,” he said. “Science will work, whether we be­lieve in it or not.”

Within min­utes of declar­ing his can­di­dacy, the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee is­sued a state­ment: “Lib­eral pro­fes­sor Janow­icz may hy­poth­e­size he has a snow­ball’s chance chal­leng­ing Royce, but in the real world, he’ll find Royce’s sup­port runs deep and wide in Orange County.”

Janow­icz, who stud­ied cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy at MIT be­fore earn­ing a PhD in chem­istry at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois, was quick to pick up on the NRCC’s code for “elit­ist.” He had his come­back ready.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with be­ing a pro­fes­sor,” he said. “It’s teach­ing the next gen­er­a­tion how to be good func­tion­ing mem­bers of so­ci­ety and get good jobs to sup­port their fam­i­lies.”

By June, Janow­icz had hired a cam­paign man­ager, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant, a fundrais­ing spe­cial­ist and a firm to keep his elec­toral pa­per­work in or­der.

Janow­icz has been crit­i­cal of Royce’s po­si­tions on health­care, ed­u­ca­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment. He says at least 1 in 5 stu­dents in the Cal State sys­tem strug­gles with food or shel­ter in­se­cu­rity, and many are afraid their par­ents could be ap­pre­hended by im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials if they show up for grad­u­a­tion.

“I’m so in­spired that they’re work­ing so hard,” he said. “We need a sys­tem that works as hard for them.”

PHIL JANOW­ICZ, a Demo­crat, is chal­leng­ing long­time Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fuller­ton). Janow­icz said he would con­tinue to think like a sci­en­tist, a habit that would pro­tect him from suc­cumb­ing to ide­o­log­i­cal rigid­ity.

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