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New Member: Democrat Jimmy Panetta Elected in California’s 20th District

Son of former Defense secretary Leon E. Panetta is heading to Congress

California's Jimmy Panetta is heading to Congress. (Photo courtesy Panetta's Facebook page)
California's Jimmy Panetta is heading to Congress. (Photo courtesy Panetta's Facebook page)

More than two decades after his father left the House, another Panetta is on his way in from California. 

Jimmy Panetta, a Democrat, will defeat Republican Casey Lucius in California’s 20th District, The Associated Press projects. 

Panetta led Lucius 68.8 percent to 31.2 percent with about half of the vote counted. 

When Panetta interned at the State Department, he actually bunked at the famous Capitol Hill house owned by former California Rep. George Miller, with his father Leon E. Panetta and current New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer among the housemates at the time.

[Election Results 2016]

Jimmy Panetta is set to succeed Rep. Sam Farr, a longtime appropriator who has been the top Democrat on the subcommittee overseeing Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration funding. Farr is retiring after 11 full terms. 

The 20th District, located on California’s central coastal, takes in most of Santa Cruz County and all of its namesake city as well as affluent Monterey Bay communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Farr had no trouble winning re-election over the last two decades in the heavily Democratic district. 

Coming into Election Day, the race was rated Safe Democrat by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. 

[California: Panetta Fundraising for Farr as Son Eyes His Seaside Seat]

A career county prosecutor, Panetta has said his experience in the courtroom will help him forge bipartisanship. “You’ve got to know when to go to the mat and when to compromise,” he said.

One of those issues is comprehensive immigration overhaul, which he hopes to work with California Republicans on advancing.

He took a break from his career to serve in Afghanistan as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer with the Joint Special Operations Command, saying it was a lifelong aspiration to serve. He joined the reserve after 9/11 and deployed for a six-month tour in 2007. He was awarded a Bronze Star in 2008.

He said he hopes to serve on the Agriculture or Armed Services committees, given both the multibillion-dollar produce industry and the military installations in the district.

He would also enjoy serving on the Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture subcommittee, following in Farr’s footsteps.

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