An unprecedented number of women are chasing political office in the 2018 midterm elections. This month, we're profiling several worthy candidates who are seeking to effect change. 

By Shalayne Pulia
Updated Oct 18, 2018 @ 11:30 am
Cristina Osmena
Credit: Vivian Abellana

Cristina Osmeña has political leadership in her blood. She’s a descendant of the well-known Osmeña family, which includes a former President of the Philippines, senators, local politicians, and more. She and her family immigrated to California when she was just 6-years-old to flee the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. If she wins in November, she could be the first Filipina-American to serve in Congress.

The self-proclaimed “radical moderate” says she wants to bring partisan politics back to the middle, instead of favoring party loyalty over bright, new ideas. The candidate backs lower taxes and a strong military, as well as immigration reform and a woman’s right to choose. She says she roots her Republican identity in fiscal policy after spending two decades in finance working at investment banking and investment management firms.

But Osmeña hasn’t spent all her time dealing with capitol. She has also worked in renewable energy at SunPreme and SunEdison.

She is open about her liberal leanings on social issues but maintains that fiscal policy and a strong military are priorities big enough to solidify her Republican affiliation. “People [think they] disagree with this scarlet ‘R’ I’m wearing, but what they actually don’t agree with is Trump,” she says. “I would like to inspire other legislators to lead based on their own conscience rather than submit to the platforms of one party or the other.”

For more about Osmeña’s campaign plans and views, scroll through the below.

Connecting to America: It was 9/11 that changed the game for Osmeña. She says she was in New York on the fated day of the terrorist attack on the twin towers – an experience that changed the course of many lives forever, including hers. Afterward, she says she started to connect more deeply with the country and developed a patriotism that she celebrates to this day. “I had immigrated to the United States and I have a family that's deeply involved in politics in the Philippines. [Before 9/11], I was living this regular life not really connected to the soul of the country – and then the World Trade Center was attacked,” Osmeña explains. “There was no selection process for who was going to be in the towers. I just felt very bonded [to] both New York and the United States when that happened.”

In the days and years that followed, Osmeña says she studied American history and began to emotionally connect to America’s spirit of rebellion. “The spirit that started the country was so amazing,” she says. “The founding fathers were a bunch of badasses. They committed treason, and they were right; they won in the end.”

Republican roots: Calling herself a radical moderate, Osmeña backs lower taxes and a strong military as well as immigration reform — but also a woman’s right to choose. She says her Republican roots stem from the wisdom of a late mentor who helped solidify her support of conservative fiscal policy and urged her to become more politically engaged. “The two things that make me consistent with the Republican ideology [are] the fiscal and kind of the strong defense,” Osmeña says. “In terms of economics, the liberals are okay with central planning, okay with feeding economic power to a government or to some form of central control. On the conservative side you want the free markets, which for me is very important.”

She does, however, openly acknowledge that many of her social issue stances align with ideals across the aisle. “I read the same articles that everybody else reads. I'm part of the public. I did not vote for Trump,” Osmeña says.

A moderate for progress: Osmeña says she wants to see the hyper-polarized state of politics re-center, favoring compromise and bright ideas over party loyalty. “Can we have a radical moderate control the political dialogue? Can people choose the best ideas from either party instead of being forced to [put] their party first over their ideas?” She adds, “What's so wrong about the whole current political discussion is that extremes win, and they win because they raise money. That's what needs to change.”

Supporting women in office: Osmeña is delighted to see so many women running for office in this year’s election. “I think that women would depolarize the discussion by adding compassion automatically to political decisions,” she says. As an example, she cites the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. “I don't think that the separation of children from their parents at the border would have happened if you had had a female’s touch and love [making decisions]. It's a no-brainer, you don't have to go to a consultant to know that women understand how to treat children.”

On abortion: “Because I'm Republican, I come from a Catholic country, and I’m close to a lot of people who are religious Catholics and Christians, I believe it is a life that is inside the woman's body,” Osmeña says. “However, I don't think the government should get involved in personal decisions. It’s a question of jurisdiction: Does the government extend its jurisdiction inside a woman's body? And I don't think that the law should extend inside somebody's body. I think that what a woman decides to with her body should remain personal.”

Best advice: “Read everything you can, be a ferocious consumer of the news, digest it critically,” she says, adding that above all, she’d like young women to pursue their passions. “Don't let the limited imaginations of others stop you from pursuing something.”

For more stories like this, pick up the November issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Oct. 12.