Whoa. Reddit AMA. I am equal parts excited and terrified, but ask away! Ask me anything! I’m not afraid to be honest and vulnerable.
To get the formal background stuff out of the way: Call me Jojo! I work as a nurse in Philadelphia and live in the Kensington neighborhood. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BSN in 2014 and an MSN in Health Leadership in 2019. I’m the daughter of Filipino immigrants, the middle child of three siblings, and recently married my best friend and partner-in-crime, Jamie. Congress was never the plan but, as any nurse will say when they tell you their life story, the stars sort-of aligned and it all just happened. I love research. Some day I’ll go back to pursue a PhD in health policy but not until I fix a couple systemic issues first!
Stop by my [Website](https://www.mantilla2020.com/),
OR check out our video-podcast series, [“Jojo Runs for Congress!” on YouTube.](https://youtu.be/KozcttCWS2Y)
My not-so-secret agenda in Congress is to establish health care as a basic human right and move our health care system to one that is high-quality, free, and accessible. I started this journey by asking a lot of questions. What does a happy, healthy life look like? Why don’t we have it? What are the barriers and opportunities to change? What would we want our health care delivery system to look like? Over the past five years I’ve listened to thousands of patients tell me their life stories at the bedside, often at the most vulnerable points in their life. Hospitals and prisons have become our social safety nets when our current systems are unable to meet our needs. Carving a pathway to a healthy and happy society means we must focus on the social and economic factors that influence us outside the hospital – also known as [the social determinants of health](https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm).
This is more than a campaign. It is a mission to build the world we want to live in by organizing and mobilizing people on the ground. It’s a mission to fight voter apathy. It’s a mission to fight structural racism, oppression, and heal the wounds from America’s traumatic relationship with slavery. It’s a mission to build a world where diversity is not only desired, but celebrated. Above all, this is a mission to bring hope back to the most vulnerable, forgotten, and disenfranchised communities of the district. I suppose one could say I’m out to change the culture of policymaking in Congress to one that values the people over profit in both word and action. Grassroots campaigning is the term du jour, but I like to think of this campaign as a public health, outcomes-driven initiative born out of my experience as an advocate for patients in health care. I’m a big systems- thinker, always looking at all the elements that influence a problem. I’m here to advocate for sustainable solutions, but such solutions can only exist if we change the culture of Congress itself. The U.S. is at a crossroads. After all the industrial and technological advancements that brought us our modern-day standards of living, we are now fighting for the right to live our lives as humans and not as cogs in a machine.
Why not the incumbent? First, I believe we deserve more than one option at the polls. Best case scenario – we have more than one good candidate and either one would serve their constituents well. Second, I don’t believe the incumbent Congressman is a bad person, but he is not, in my eyes, what the district needs right now. When I started thinking about running for public office, I thought hard about what would make me feel served by my representative. Families are struggling to make ends meet with competing financial priorities and communities have suffered enough from deep generational poverty, economic uncertainty and pure emotional, social, and economic trauma. We need to heal. We deserve a leader that is unafraid to speak about the intrinsic social issues that preceded our current issues, such as systemic racism, police brutality, and economic disinvestment as a result of valuing profit over people. We need someone who can initiate the tough conversations and bring us together as we work for change. I always start by asking questions – what are people struggling with and what are they afraid of? And in our district it’s education, opioids, job security, housing access, health care, and criminal justice reform. I want to do more than vote, I want to write policies to lay the groundwork for the bigger, systemic changes needed ahead.
Why me? Why now? I do think you have to be a little bit crazy to think you’re good enough to run for Congress. I haven’t held public office before, but I am here to build bridges and strengthen coalitions. I am here to listen. The defining characteristic that sets me apart from my challenger is my ability to connect with people and communicate with others. I am ready to have tough conversations and put the hard work into thinking out-of-the-box for creative solutions within the realm of possibility. I’m currently writing what I call my “Blueprint for Change” which will specifically address how I plan to lead the district and how I will hold myself accountable and measure success after two years in office. My hope is to set-up a strong, responsive, activism culture and leadership within the district so that whoever takes over after my term ends will already be set-up for success. I believe in supporting the grassroots efforts of people and organizations on the ground. I will support the efforts of local government in their efforts to enact positive change. I learned this from working in a hospital, if you want to improve patient outcomes it starts by listening to the stories of people on the front lines and prioritizing their concerns. I don’t intend to be in Congress forever, nor do I look at it as an eternal job. Someday I do hope to complete a PhD, infuse life into the music scene in Philly, open a Jazz club, and be the lead singer of my own big band!
On days when I’m struggling to balance this campaign, my emotions, and the rest of my life truly, this campaign feels like an expression of everything I am and the person I hope to become. At the end of the day, all I have to throw into the combat ring is myself – my passion and dedication, my hope for the future, and as much compassion, empathy, and love as I can give. I know I will be outspent by my challengers and that’s okay. I’ve accepted that. But if you should know one thing about nurses, we’re pretty good at working with what we’ve got to accomplish a goal. I’m not accepting corporate donations and I most certainly do not have a network of wealthy donors or businesses at my disposal. Money comes with strings attached and I’m not here to play that game. I’m here to get shit done. Despite the obvious factors, such as money and political influence, what I do have is an extremely perceptive, focused mind that’s ready and excited to work!
Alright Reddit, I’m here for you! Ask me anything! My favorite topics: trying to stay organized, work-life balance (does that even exist?), imposter syndrome, and Philly!
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you! I appreciate you. I am not known for brevity and I definitely was not made for the 280 characters on Twitter. Quick shoutout to my family and friends who have relentlessly supported me throughout this crazy endeavor. I would not be here without you.
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