The newly-released campaign video from a Congressional candidate in California looks back at his early life and career. This includes being forced to leave home for being gay and then being chucked out of the navy for the same reason.
Joseph C. Rocha, 35, of Escondido, is standing as a Democrat challenger for California’s 50th Congressional District in 2022. He released his first campaign video on Monday.
I’m running for Congress against @DarrellIssa.
I was discharged from the Navy for being gay, and fought to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I know what it means to be a patriot.
Issa voted against the 1/6 commission. That’s not patriotism.
— Joseph C Rocha (@Joseph_C_Rocha) August 2, 2021
In the advert, Rocha recalls his childhood. His mom struggled with addiction. When she was arrested, he went to live, aged around seven, with his dad in Riverside.
“Ten years later I came out. And had to move out.”
On his eighteenth birthday, in 2004, Rocha joined the US Navy and served as a bomb dog handler. However, three years later, in 2007, he was kicked out of the navy because of his sexuality. He recently tweeted a photo of the letter he had to sign stating he was gay.
As we prepare to celebrate @SanDiegoPride and @escondido_pride reflecting on how I was once required to choose between my honor and my dream of attending @NavalAcademy . If elected I will be a champion for opportunity and against discrimination of all forms. 🌈🦅🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/0qtf9Gn0u7
— Joseph C Rocha (@Joseph_C_Rocha) July 13, 2021
When he left the navy, Rocha publicly spoke out against ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell‘. He also vowed that if openly gay people were allowed to serve, he would re-enlist. In the meantime, he went to college and then to law school.
He eventually rejoined the military, becoming a Marine Corps. Captain and prosecutor in 2014.
Rocha’s now running for Congress against the sitting congressman, Darrell Issa (R).
“I’m running for Congress because so many of the challenges that people across this district and across the country are experiencing are personal to me,” Rocha said in a statement to Queerty. “I understand what people are going through. We are still in the midst of a recovery, and too many people are still struggling.
“We need to bring back good-paying jobs to this district — jobs that pay the bills and allow people to have time for dinner with their families and putting their kids to bed at night. We also need to properly invest in infrastructure — not just roads and bridges, but also addressing the water crisis and weak power grid here in California.
“As climate change brings hotter and drier summers, these increasingly become life or death issues for so many of our neighbors, especially seniors.”
Issa was elected in 2020. This particular congressional seat, which covers suburbs to the north and east of San Diego, is in one of California’s more conservative areas, and Republicans have held it since 2002. Issa won it in 2020 with 54% of the vote.
Rocha, who’s grandparents moved from Mexico to California in the 1960s, says Issa’s views and actions are partly what inspired him to run.
“I think for sure the catalyst was the January 6 insurrection,” he recently told The Escondido Times-Advocate.
In January, Rocha was still in uniform as a Marine Corps captain. “I watched Issa vote against the certification of the election.”
He also noted Issa, formerly a Representative before a Congressman, voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, something so personal to Rocha and his career.
“Issa is one of the most divisive politicians in Washington. He’s broken his promise to stand up for Southern California, voting against the relief bill that provided a much-needed expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which will help reduce child poverty in half and benefit more than 150,000 children here in this district. And he failed to uphold his oath to the Constitution when he voted against certifying the results of a free and fair election.”
Issa also voted against the 1/6 commission: “That’s not patriotism,” says Rocha.