Going door to door in a quiet neighborhood recently, between sometimes awkward conversations with voters, Calderon talked about the movie "Game Change," expressing sympathy for its subject: Sarah Palin and her bumpy campaign for vice president. "You have to know everything on the spot," he said.
His father has provided some time-honored advice. "Sometimes I encourage him to be a little more general in his comments," the elder Calderon said.
Since 2006, Charles Calderon has given more than advice: He paid his son nearly $60,000 from campaign accounts, for website consulting.
Ian, who was a political science major, said he upgraded his father's slapdash campaign site, occasionally bringing in others for the more technical work. "I was a facilitator," he said, chewing on a Twizzler.
Some of the payments were made while the younger Calderon was employed full-time by the Legislature. Financial filings show that he failed to report the income to the state as required by law, amending his disclosure forms after declaring his candidacy.
"It's a very complicated and confusing system that takes a while to understand," he said. "As soon as I recognized the problem, I fixed the problem."
Employing family members is legal, Charles Calderon said. "It's not improper … if they do the work."
He contended that other politicians also pay their relatives — including Bermudez, whose campaigns have paid nearly $28,000 to his wife, Nancy, since 2001. Rudy Bermudez said that the money reimburses his wife for office equipment she buys for his campaigns and that she is not on salary.
In his own legislative bid, Ian Calderon has paid his mother, Lisa, $5,000, listing her in his campaign reports as a consultant. His aunt, Leslie Rodriguez, gets $1,500 a month as campaign manager. He said his relatives are political professionals with deep roots in the district and provide a rare commodity in politics: trust.
"Who else can you trust more than family?" he said.