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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

From Associated Students to local government — SFSU alumnus runs for office

Former AS president Joshua Rudy Ochoa runs for the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) Assembly District 17
Neal Wong
Joshua Rudy Ochoa poses for a portrait in Malcolm X Plaza on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Neal Wong / Golden Gate Xpress)

This primary election season, Joshua Rudy Ochoa, the youngest candidate at the age of 25, is running for local government. From being a political activist at San Francisco State University, Ochoa is running for the Democratic County Central Committee.

From the suburbs of Orange County to San Francisco, Ochoa grew a political lens outlook on life after seeing his mother be a leader after being evicted from their home.  

“A lot of my upbringing was difficult; we did struggle a lot, especially going through the really rough parts of the Great Recession,” Ochoa said.

Facing the end of the Great Recession, Ochoa’s mother — a teacher and union representative — received significant pay cuts, forcing them to live out of a motel for over a year. 

Ochoa grew up in Mission Viejo, a suburb of Orange County. Growing up in what he considered a “conservative suburbia” his mother was a leader in her teacher’s union inspiring him to pursue community organizing. In middle school, he became involved with Model United Nations — an educational model to help students learn diplomacy and international relations — citing that as his gateway into political activism. 

“I found that was my passion,” Ochoa said. “It was refreshing to be able to argue or fight for something that I think should have been something that everyone should have, which is their basic needs taken care of, affordable housing — just the basics of life that people should always have.” 

In high school, Ochoa volunteered for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and built on his love for advocacy. The engagement he experienced on the campaign trail motivated him to continue. After reflecting on his upbringing, he wanted to advocate for better working and living conditions, especially for the families that had gone through situations similar to his.

When the time came for college applications, Ochoa decided that his future had to complement his political passion and moved to San Francisco in 2017 to start his college education as a political science major at San Francisco State University. 

Alondra Esquivel Garcia, a close friend of Ochoa and former Associated Students president met during their freshman year. Garcia and Ochoa worked for the Residential Housing Association and represented their respective dorm communities and went on to serve in AS together. Through this mutual experience, they bonded and have remained close since. 

He started off early on — I feel like — when as soon as he got to San Francisco, he just hit the ground running,” Garcia said. “It’s honestly been exciting because I think he’s grown so much as an individual who cares about issues and wants to address them.”

Ochoa knew he wanted to continue representing the voice of the students in his college career which motivated him to join Associated Students during his first year.  

During his time with AS, Ochoa made fundamental changes to the everyday student’s life. Apart from serving in RHA, Ochoa was also the liberal and creative arts representative, vice president of external affairs, and finally, president and CEO in his final year as an undergrad. 

“I did a lot of work in student government. One thing we did was expand the Gator Pass to SamTrans down the peninsula. We encouraged the administration to lower student fees during the pandemic,” said Ochoa, “I helped with the first round of vaccinations rolling out in 2021 for the student volunteer opportunities, and just like a lot of other things, got students registered to vote, helped raise the student minimum wage on campus.”

Additionally, he worked to successfully divest SFSU foundation funds from all fossil fuel industries by 2025, passed an amended resolution in opposition to the San Francisco parking tax on SFSU students, and co-authored six California State University policy proposals to increase support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, menstrual equity, basic needs and free CSU tuition.

“I consider myself a pretty friendly person. I can work with pretty much anyone,” Ochoa said. “But there was also a lot of like some toxic environment with comes like student government. There’s always a very competitive edge to it.”

Ochoa often found it overwhelming to keep up with the overload of work in student government, a full course load and a job. But those experiences culminated in developing skills to serve him in his post-graduation political organizing. Ochoa persevered through his struggles with AS and headed straight into local organizing after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2022. 

“I just think he was someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Garcia said. “I think the hard rule about being in Associated Students is most of the time you won’t see the things you’ve advocated for there. I remember I was working on stuff that someone brought up years ago and Joshua was like ‘no, I want to see this.’”

Garcia and Ochoa went on to take their experiences in student government to San Francisco City Hall under the San Francisco Youth Commission. Ochoa currently serves as a community partnership specialist and Garcia is the commission’s director. 

While involved in the youth commission, Ochoa joined several local organizations, including the California Young Democrats and the San Francisco Berniecrats. During this time, he developed a relationship with another AS colleague — Karina Zamora, a graduate student at SFSU.

She recounted stories about times when Ochoa would encourage her to pursue bigger things in her career, including joining the California Young Democrats. That push into local organizing is something that Zamora holds dear and is thankful for.

She said she wasn’t surprised upon hearing about Ochoa’s run for DCCC.

I was so proud of him because I knew he was always so passionate [about] everything he was doing, and he would pour his heart into everything he did. So to see his efforts come to fruition was always so inspiring and honestly motivated me to get out there and do things,” Zamora said.

Ochoa’s career is now focused on his candidacy for DCCC during the March 5 primary election, where his campaign revolves around job and labor unions, drug crisis and overdose prevention, and homelessness and housing.

“I’ve always followed my gut. My mom always says, ‘The Ochoas have a good gut so don’t ignore it,’’’ Ochoa said. “And so I think that’s been a big thing. It’s, like, always listening to what my intuition is, listening to what is right and also not being afraid to change my mind.”

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About the Contributors
Cami Dominguez
Cami Dominguez, Staff Reporter
Cami Dominguez (they/them) is a staff reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. They are majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. Cami has long had an interest in politics and, thus, local and grass-roots organizing. Born and raised in San Diego, California, they have previously been a staff writer in high school for Pulse Magazine, Canyon Crest Academy's publication. In their free time, they love binge-watching shows they have watched before, hyper-curating specific Spotify playlists, and snuggling up with any Sally Rooney book.
Neal Wong
Neal Wong, Co-Copy Editor
Neal Wong (he/him) is a third-year journalism student and minoring in urban studies and planning. He was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Washington High School. He has photographed and written for Golden Gate Xpress first as a contributor, then as a photographer, and now as a copy editor. His photos have also been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, Mission Local, and Xpress Magazine. Neal has also created and taught four SFSU Experimental College courses. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and reading.

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