SAN DIEGO — (KGTV) -- Janessa Goldbeck's medals from her time serving in the Marines stand inside her campaign headquarters, which also doubles as the garage in her Talmadge-area home.
"It really shaped how I look at what our government's role is in our society and who's looking out for people who don't have anyone else to look out for them," she said of her military service.
Goldbeck, a Democrat, has been a relative unknown in the race to replace retiring Congresswoman Susan Davis in the 53rd Congressional District. In fact, she polled at just 2 percent in the 10News Union-Tribune scientific poll released Feb. 4.
The district is heavily Democratic, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans nearly two-to-one in voter registration.
That's why most headlines are going to Democrats with more backing and money - Sara Jacobs, who held posts in Obama's state department, and City Council President Georgette Gomez, who has the endorsement of the California Democratic Party.
Jacobs lead the pack at 23 percent in the Feb. 4 poll, with Republican Chris Stoddard in second place at 10 percent. Gomez polled at 5 percent. The top two votegetters March 3, regardless of party, move on to the November general election.
"We're just going nose to the grindstone, trying to get that message out to voters," Goldbeck said.
Goldbeck's message got a big microphone over the weekend, when the Union-Tribune endorsed her over all others. The editorial board acknowledged her service and called her interview one of the most impressive this campaign season.
"Goldbeck would be a refreshing, assured, morally corageous voice on Capitol Hill," the editorial said.
Goldbeck, a San Diego native, said she screamed when she heard she got the endorsement. After all, the Union-Tribune editorial board said it almost didn't call for an interview, given her well-known opponents.
"To be honest, we were stunned," she said of earning the endorsement.
While newspaper circulation is down nationwide, the U-T gave Goldbeck an introduction to an audience she may not have been able to reach on her own.
Bill Celis, an associate professor of journalism at USC Annenberg, said people still look to newspapers for reasoned guidance on important issues and candidates.
"I think an endorsement from a highly read newspaper for a candidate that doesn't have a lot of campaign dollars is enormous," he said.
As of Dec. 31, Goldbeck had raised a little more than $200,000. Jacobs had nearly $1 million, while Gomez had more than $450,000.