Estakio Beltran will graduate from the School of International and Public Affairs this spring, and his next stop may be Congress—if the votes are in his favor.
Beltran, SIPA '14, announced his candidacy as a Democrat last week for Washington's 4th Congressional District. If elected, Beltran says he hopes to advocate for the middle class through creating jobs and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Congress.
According to Beltran, his campaign centers on “those Americans who are hardworking and could just do so much more if we gave them a hand up instead of a hand down.”
Beltran grew up shuttling between foster families in Yakima Valley, Washington's wine country and the area he hopes to represent.
“For me, I really had to, growing up, depend on help from the community around me,” Beltran said. “It's a community that really gave a lot to me.”
“The area I'm looking to represent—we're a more practical, common-sense people, and I think they deserve a representative that shares those values,” Beltran said.
After graduating from high school, Beltran went on to Gonzaga University, where he worked on child welfare issues as a representative of the Orphan Foundation of America. Beltran then took his advocacy experience to Capitol Hill, first as an assistant, then for Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, and then as a senior policy adviser for California Congressman Dennis Cardoza.
Working with Cardoza gave Beltran ample opportunity to further his experience with child welfare policy.
“It was great because all of a sudden, I had a job and a boss who cared about these ideas as much as I did, and it really gave me the opportunity to make a dent in child welfare policy, and it was incredible,” he said.
After working in Cardoza's office for five years, Beltran went on to pursue a masters degree at SIPA.
“I've gotten so much from my professors at SIPA, from the campus here, and just being in New York,” Beltran said. “You don't sleep much, but when there's so much at stake, I find that I'm more driven.”
University Provost John Coatsworth taught Beltran in a SIPA seminar about U.S.-Latin American relations since World War II. Coatsworth told Spectator that he feels SIPA students are particularly well-positioned to be in Congress.
“Estakio's uniquely difficult personal journey seems to have prepared him to understand the challenges faced by many of his future constituents,” Coatsworth said.
“We devoted a good deal of time to complicated issues like drug trafficking policies. I'm delighted to know that these discussions helped him on his way,” Coatsworth said.
Petr Cibulka, Jr., SIPA '14, is helping Beltran with his campaign strategy.
Cibulka said that although his time at SIPA was a formative period in Beltran's life, the values that make him a good politician were there before he came to Columbia.
“The reason why he's qualified is because when we first met, it was obvious that he had the drive to make things happen—he was always involved with political stuff,” Cibulka said. “The school is there to facilitate and to help you accomplish your goals and ambitions, but it all starts with you personally.”
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