California Trailblazers, a program with a track record of successfully identifying, recruiting and training the next generation of Republican leaders, today announced three candidates are now Pathfinders, including candidates Cory Ellenson (AD 48), Rita Topalian (AD 57) and Steven Choi (AD 68), who are seeking election to the California State Assembly.


“Each of these candidates have worked hard to earn this distinction through building a strong foundation to continue to build upon in the coming weeks to successfully execute and achieve a winning campaign,” said Jessica Patterson, CEO of California Trailblazers. “We are dedicated to developing the next generation of strong Republican leaders, and these candidates embody such leadership.”

To earn ‘Pathfinder’ status, the first level in the program’s three-tier structure, candidates must meet rigorous campaign benchmarks including, more than $100,000 without personal loans, identifying local volunteers and precinct captains and establishing a website and social media presence. Additionally, ‘Pathfinders’ have attended candidate trainings. These elements ensure candidates are prepared for the campaign trail and ready to lead once elected.


  • Cory Ellenson (AD 48) – Ellenson is a member of the Glendora School Board and runs a small business called Ellenson Legal and Financial Services. He has experience with the United States Department of the Treasury as a General Attorney and has taught as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from USC Leventhal School of Accounting and received his Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in tax law. Ellenson is very involved in the community and is the Treasurer for both the Kiwanis Club of Glendora and the Glendora Friends of Rotary. Additionally, he is a member of the Glendora Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee and a member of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association.


  • Rita Topalian (AD 57) – Topalian was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1951. After high school she started several successful businesses. She earned a degree in political science from CSU, Los Angeles while raising three children and managing a business. She then went on to attain her Juris Doctorate in 1988 from Western State College, University of Law. Her experience in the community includes ten years as a Board Member for the Whittier Bar Association, in addition to being past president. While practicing law, Rita worked with Senator Bob Margett’s (retired) field representative and point person on women’s issues, where she established and coordinated yearly Women’s Conferences.


  • Steven Choi (AD 68) – Choi immigrated to the United States as a Peace Corps language instructor for the State Department in 1968 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea. He continued his education in the United States, earning a master’s degree in library science from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a passionate educator and has experience in higher education teaching at universities and colleges around the country. Choi is a dedicated public servant who is The City of Irvine’s current Mayor and has served on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Orange County Sanitation District. He was elected as a Trustee to the Irvine Unified Schools District in 1998, served two terms on the City Council and has been the Mayor of Irvine since 2012.

 “2016 is a pivotal year, not only for our nation, but for California,” said Patterson. “We are dedicated to developing the next generation of strong Republican leaders, and these Pathfinder candidates are a demonstration of that commitment.”


Throughout 2016, California Trailblazers will continue to provide ongoing support to Republican legislative candidates. Candidates who seek to enter the second tier of the Trailblazers program—Rising Star status—must raise more than $250,000 in campaign contributions, identify local volunteers and precinct captains and create a substantial online presence through a dynamic website and active social media effort.