Campaign is his new classroom
Fullerton professor quits tenured job to run for Congress
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.