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Cisneros eyes open California seat for return to Congress

Enters crowded race to succeed Napolitano, who is backing state lawmaker

Former Rep. Gil Cisneros will run for the House seat that Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, a fellow Democrat, is giving up in California.
Former Rep. Gil Cisneros will run for the House seat that Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, a fellow Democrat, is giving up in California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected 1:54 p.m. | Democrat Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran from California who served a single term in the House before losing reelection in 2020, is aiming for a political comeback.

Cisneros said Monday that he was joining the crowded field to replace Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, who is retiring from her seat in the 31st District. Cisneros joined the Biden administration as the military’s chief diversity and inclusion officer after losing reelection.

“As I witness the continued attacks by MAGA extremists on the programs, and policies that I implemented at [the Department of Defense] and fought for in Congress, like access to reproductive care, environmental protections, and gun safety legislation, I know that our work is not done, which is why I am announcing my candidacy for Congress,” Cisneros said in a statement.

Cisneros is a former Republican; he left the GOP in 2008. After winning $266 million in the California lottery and earning a master’s degree in urban education policy, he flipped a neighboring district for the Democrats in 2018. In 2020, he lost to Republican Young Kim, who still holds the seat.

He is the latest Democrat to enter the race in the 31st. Other contenders include state Sens. Bob Archuleta and Susan Rubio. Napolitano endorsed Archuleta in July, after she announced her retirement.

Cisneros rolled out a list of endorsements Monday. He has the backing of Rep. Nanette Barragán, a California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and endorsements from the New Democratic Coalition Action Fund and several labor unions and local officials.

In addition to Barragán, other Democrats in the California delegation backing Cisneros were Salud Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, John Garamendi, Josh Harder, Mike Levin, Raul Ruiz, and Linda T. Sánchez.

President Joe Biden won the district, which includes the suburbs east of Los Angeles, by 31 points in 2020. 

This report was corrected to reflect Cisneros’ single House term.