By Eric Ruble
Bryan Osorio isn’t wasting any time.
He was elected to the city council in Delano, California, at 22, became mayor in December 2020 while he was still earning his master’s of public policy degree at USC Price, and was then re-elected for another year-long term.
Now, he’s running for state Senate.
Osorio is eager to improve the lives of people in his community and sees Sacramento as the most direct route to do so. He is campaigning to represent state Senate District 16.
Osorio, running as a Democrat, says he often found himself referring residents to state and congressional representatives about important matters like health care and citizenship. When he was elected to city council in 2018, Osorio was also working for the American Civil Liberties Union. He says a number of social justice issues are key elements of this campaign platform.
“There’s so much to be done at the state level,” he said.
Championing the Central Valley
Osorio has lived in the Central Valley since he was 7. He grew up exposed to complex issues with huge regional ramifications, including water rights and oil drilling. As a son of Mexican immigrants, he also witnessed their struggles firsthand.
“The Central Valley of California is filled with so many different policy arenas that are often left unaddressed,” he said. Osorio pointed to water shortages amid the grinding drought as an especially challenging problem for the agriculture-dependent area. The Central Valley produces a quarter of the nation’s food, according to the USGS.
“Drought is definitely on people’s minds,” he said. “Water policy is one of the most sensitive issues in the Central Valley.”
Now, his sights are set on June 7, 2022: the date of the California Primary Election. He has to receive at least the second-most votes to advance to the General Election in November.
He strongly believes people will connect with his ideas. In his view, it’s just a matter of sharing them as widely as possible.
“People are longing for a new message, and I think that’s what got me across city council,” he said. “I want to be a pro-worker candidate, a pro-environment candidate, a pro-public health candidate.”
Dedicating his career to the common good
Osorio chose to enroll at USC Price because he knew it would make him a more effective elected official.
“I wanted to have a better understanding of how to address education, housing, land use [and] public policy,” he explained. “The idea was to get exposed to more policy arenas and more experienced people in the field.”
He says he would often take ideas from class and discuss them in city council meetings.
“I got to meet a lot of great folks – classmates who come from different backgrounds,” Osorio said.
He initially announced a run for Congress in May 2021, and then shifted to the state Senate race in February 2022. Osorio says that when he made the announcement, he immediately heard from USC Price classmates who encouraged him, donated money to his campaign and asked how to volunteer.
“That was very heartwarming,” he shared.
USC Price did more than help him network. It also taught him practical skills that he could use as a public servant. A notable moment was during his MPP final project, when he established a committee in Delano that worked toward decarbonization, which involves moving away from energy systems that produce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Local stakeholders’ concern is that there is not enough help for this transition or decarbonization strategy that we are trying to implement region-wide,” he said. “As an elected official, I want to provide a clarified platform.”
Sprinting to the Primary
Osorio says he is focused on getting underrepresented groups excited about voting.
“We have a very low voter turnout rate, so we have to make sure impacted voices [and] marginalized voices are mobilized and make sure that their voice is important,” Osorio said. Historically, midterm elections have not favored the sitting president’s party. Osorio says that is also top-of-mind as he campaigns. “The timing is something we’ll have to work against.”
By campaigning on principles he believes in, Osorio hopes to resonate with the community in which he was raised. And with their continued support, he wants to not only serve their interests but make lasting policy changes at the state level.