By Janis Mork
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
November 7, 2012 (San Diego)- After Juan Vargas beat Republican Michael Crimmins 69.9% to 30.1%, Vargas’ supporters shouted, “Sí se puede!” (Yes we can!) and, “Juan! Juan! Juan!” After his impressive win, Vargas told ECM, “I’m very excited and very happy about the results I’m seeing so far, and very excited to be working with social justice.”
An American success story, Vargas who graduated from Harvard Law School is the son of farmworkers , where he was a classmate of President Barack Obama, before serving on San Diego's City Council and in the California Legislature. Vargas will replace Congressman Bob Filner, who has been elected Mayor of San Diego.
The 51st Congressional district spans the southern portions of San Diego County and extends into Imperial County. Below are Vargas' goals in Congress and details his legislative record.
His priorities will be protecting Medicare and social security, good paying jobs for trained workers, solar and green power to boost economic growth, educational opportunities for all children, and in-home supportive healthcare services for the aged and infirmed, according to his website.
He also promises that once elected to Congress, he will fight for the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. He has been committed to ensuring quality public safety, preserving equality and protecting vital services for children, the poor and elderly.
An American success story, Vargas is the third son of 10 children, born in National City. His parents moved here from Mexico in the late 1940s as part of the Bracero program, which helped 4 million Mexican farmers get to work in the fields in the U.S.. They raised their children on a chicken ranch.
He attended the University of San Diego on a scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1983. In 1987, he earned his Masters in Humanities from Fordham University in New York City and then earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1991.
He was elected to San Diego City Council in 1993 and had an eight year tenure, where he says he assumed a leadership role in planning, funding and advocating for public safety, municipal infrastructure and schools. He also helped establish community-based policing, which has become a national model, fought tobacco advertising directed at children, and helped create San Diego’s 6-to-6 after school program. He also sponsored a graffiti and home rehabilitation program, known as Operation Restore, which employed homeless individuals in an effort to improve and revitalize blighted homes and neighborhoods in San Diego’s urban core.
In 2000, he was elected to the State Assembly in the 79th district and became Assistant Majority Leader in his first year.
He expanded his work on children’s issues beginning with authorship of AB 188- a legislation that bans smoking in children’s playgrounds and tot lot areas, and also introduced a legislation to aimed at protecting young children from the harmful effects of graphic sex and violence in arcade video games. He co-authored a legislation to expand before and after-school programs throughout CA. He also authored legislation to mandate a life sentence for people who commit violent sex crimes against children, which served as a model for Chelsea’s Law. In 2006, he served as a Vice President of External Affairs for Safeco Insurance and VP of Corporate Legal for Liberty Mutual Group, in which he helped bring jobs to Southern California Communities.
In 2010, he was elected to the Senate for the 40th District. Vargas says he has worked to ensure public safety and protect services to the poor and elderly, and he has introduced bills to advance those goals.
He has authored numerous pieces of legislation on topics ranging from transportation to View the list: http://sd40.senate.ca.gov/legislation. He led a rally to stop funding cuts for in-home care for seniors and the disabled.
His bill, SB 1264, requiring school coaching staffs to report suspected sexual abuse is now law, enacted in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
Chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, he authored three measures aimed at helping California consumers that were recently signed into law by Governor Brown. Senate Bill 978, 979 and 980 protect investors who invest in “hard money” real estate ventures, provide the public with more information about enforcement actions taken by banking regulators against state banks, and ensure that borrowers will not be victimized by loan modification advance fee scams.
His measure to improve reporting of elder abuse, SB 718, also became law. A Vargas bill to increase bail for violent felons previously extradited was also signed by the Governor So was a measure to boost funding for research into ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. A Vargas bill to provide SANDAG with alternative delivery methods for transportation projects also became law.
SB 833, a Vargas bill that would have prohibited a landfill at Gregory Canyon, was vetoed by Governor Brown. Another Vargas measure aimed to protect small businesses against Wal-Mart superstores by requiring an economic analysis of potential impacts, but the bill failed to win passage.
His tenure has not been without controversy. A former insurance lobbyist, he drew controversy by taking large contributions from the insurance industry and then twice not voting on a healthcare for all Californians measured backed by Democrats, which failed passage by two votes.
Vargas’ SJR 13, which was signed by Governor Brown, urged President Barack Obama--his former classmate at Harvard--to reject the Energia Juarez cross-border transmission project and keep “green jobs” in the U.S. instead of Mexico. Many rural residents in East County who battled to stop the controversial trans-border energy corridor project backed by Sempra Energy.
Congressman-elect Vargas and his wife, Adrienne, have two daughters, Rosa and Helena.
For more information on Vargas, visit: http://votevargas.com.
For current results on the other congressional districts, visit: http://smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/sd/us_congress.html.