After winning an open seat in California's newly drawn 41st Congressional District, Democrat Mark Takano is hoping to bring his experience as an inner-city schoolteacher to the marbled halls of Capitol Hill. He also is the first openly gay person of color to hold a seat in Congress. In an interview with National Journal before the election, Takano said he hoped his victory would be a breakthrough for LGBT rights.
Born and raised in Riverside, Calif., Takano grew up in a self-described "typical Japanese-American family" with a strong emphasis on education, self-reliance, and public service. In his youth, he played junior football. He was fascinated by politics and remembers watching the Watergate House Judiciary Committee hearings on television as a boy, entranced by the opening remarks of Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas. He eventually earned a bachelor's degree in government from Harvard University.
He was planning to go to law school but decided instead to try teaching, taking a job as a substitute teacher in the Boston area. The diverse region gave him the experience of working in wealthier districts like Brookline and also inner-city schools. He went back to school to get a teaching certificate, and took a job as an English and social-studies teacher at the Rialto Unified School District, where he has been ever since.