Gil Cisneros

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Gil Cisneros
10th Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
In office
August 24, 2021 – September 8, 2023
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byMatthew Donovan
Succeeded byAshish Vazirani (acting)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 39th district
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2021
Preceded byEd Royce
Succeeded byYoung Kim
Personal details
Gilbert Ray Cisneros Jr.

(1971-02-12) February 12, 1971 (age 52)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (2008–present)
Other political
Republican (before 2008)
EducationGeorge Washington University (BA)
Regis University (MBA)
Brown University (MA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
RankLieutenant Commander

Gilbert Ray Cisneros Jr. (born February 12, 1971)[1] is an American government official, philanthropist, and politician who served as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Biden administration. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the U.S. representative for California's 39th congressional district from 2019 to 2021.

In 2010, he and his wife won a $266 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot[2] and became philanthropists. He was elected to the House in 2018 to represent California's 39th congressional district.[3] He was defeated in his 2020 bid for reelection by former California State Assembly member Young Kim, whom he had defeated in 2018. In April 2021, he was nominated by President Biden to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and after confirmation by the Senate, he assumed office on August 24, 2021.[4] On August 1, 2023, he announced he was stepping down from his position in the Pentagon in early September. On September 18 he announced his candidacy for California's 31st congressional district in the 2024 election.[5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Cisneros was born in Los Angeles, of Californio heritage.[7] His mother worked in a cafeteria, while his father served in the Vietnam War and suffered from exposure to Agent Orange.[2] Cisneros served in the United States Navy as a supply officer for 11 years.[8] He earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from George Washington University and his Master of Business Administration from Regis University.[9]


Cisneros worked as a shipping and manufacturing manager for Frito-Lay until he was laid off in 2010.[10]

Weeks after he was laid off, Cisneros won a Mega Millions jackpot worth $266 million.[10] He and his wife became philanthropists, establishing endowments for scholarships to be given to Latino students at GWU and the University of Southern California. They also founded Generation First Degree Pico Rivera, with the goal of ensuring every Latino household in Pico Rivera has at least one college graduate, and the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation with an initial investment of $20 million to provide mentorship in education.[9][11][12] After setting up the foundation, Cisneros earned a Master of Arts from Brown University in Urban Education Policy,[2][8] and an MBA from Regis University.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



Cisneros was a Republican until 2008, but left the party because he felt it had become "too ideological" and switched to the Democratic Party.[13]

In 2017, he declared his candidacy against Ed Royce in the 2018 election for the United States House of Representatives to represent California's 39th congressional district.[11][14] He specifically cited Royce's vote to repeal the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as a reason he chose to run.[13] In January 2018, Royce announced he would retire rather than seek reelection to a 14th term.[15] Later, the election attracted national attention as the "weirdest race in the country" after the California Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brokered a truce on negative campaigning between Cisneros and Andy Thorburn, who had each spent $6 million on their respective campaigns.[16]

Fears of a lockout by either party were not realized when Cisneros advanced to the November runoff election, finishing second in the June primary election to Republican former Assemblywoman Young Kim,[17] with 19.35% of the vote.[18] This election was rated a "Toss-up" by the Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball.[19] The Associated Press called the election for Cisneros on November 17.[20]


Cisneros lost to Young Kim in the 2020 House of Representatives election for California's 39th congressional district, in a rematch of the 2018 election.


Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Biden administration[edit]

On April 12, 2021, the White House announced that Cisneros would be nominated to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Biden administration;[21] his nomination was received on April 27.[22] On July 27, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) voted to advance Cisneros's nomination to the full chamber for a future vote.[22][23] Cisneros was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on August 11, 2021 by voice vote,[24] and he was sworn in on August 24, 2021.[4]

Electoral history[edit]

California's 39th congressional district election, 2018
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Young Kim 30,019 21.2
Democratic Gil Cisneros 27,469 19.4
Republican Phil Liberatore 20,257 14.3
Democratic Andy Thorburn 12,990 9.2
Republican Shawn Nelson 9,750 6.9
Republican Bob Huff 8,699 6.2
Democratic Sam Jammal 7,613 5.4
Democratic Mai-Khanh Tran 7,430 5.3
Democratic Herbert H. Lee 5,988 4.2
Republican Steven C. Vargas 4,144 2.9
Democratic Suzi Park Leggett 2,058 1.5
Republican John J. Cullum 1,747 1.2
No party preference Karen Lee Schatzle 903 0.6
No party preference Steve Cox 856 0.6
Republican Andrew Sarega 823 0.6
American Independent Sophia J. Alexander 523 0.4
American Independent Ted Alemayhu 176 0.1
Total votes 141,445 100.0
General election
Democratic Gil Cisneros 126,002 51.6
Republican Young Kim 118,391 48.4
Total votes 229,860 100.0
California's 39th congressional district election, 2020
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Young Kim 83,941 48.3
Democratic Gil Cisneros (incumbent) 81,402 46.9
No party preference Steve Cox 8,286 4.8
Total votes 173,629 100.0
General election
Republican Young Kim 173,946 50.6
Democratic Gil Cisneros (incumbent) 169,837 49.4
Total votes 343,783 100.0

Personal life[edit]

Cisneros and his wife Jacki have two children, who are twins.[8] They own a home in Pico Rivera,[25] and lived in Newport Beach until they moved to Yorba Linda in late 2017, the year he began running for election.[11] Before Cisneros won the lottery, Jacki worked for KNBC in Los Angeles.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CISNEROS, Gil - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress.
  2. ^ a b c "Former Navy Vet, Lottery Winner Joins Race To Unseat GOP Congressman". July 17, 2017. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Democrat Cisneros wins OC's 39th district". November 18, 2018. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness - The Honorable Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  5. ^ "Cisneros to leave Pentagon in early September after controversial tenure". July 31, 2023.
  6. ^ Altimari, Daniela (September 18, 2023). "Cisneros eyes open California seat for return to Congress". Roll Call. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  7. ^ "¿Hispanos en Congreso de EE.UU. podrían producir cambios? | Voice of America - Spanish". Archived from the original on July 20, 2021. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c "Republicans-turned-Democrats challenging O.C. GOP Congress members". Orange County Register. July 19, 2017. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  9. ^ a b L.S. Hall (June 24, 2015). "Lucky and Focused: A Lottery Winner Uses His Millions to Boost Hispanic Students — Inside Philanthropy". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c "TV news employee in LA has $266M winning ticket". The San Diego Union-Tribune. May 6, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Christine Mai-Duc (August 5, 2017). "Navy veteran/lottery winner to challenge Orange County Rep. Ed Royce for Congress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  12. ^ David Callahan. "The Big Money Behind a New College Fund for Immigrant "DREAMers" — Inside Philanthropy". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Lottery Winner to Challenge Royce in California". July 17, 2017. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  14. ^ Wildermuth, John (April 21, 2018). "Lottery millionaire wins again: National Democrats help him in Orange County race". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  15. ^ "Rep. Ed Royce of California to retire, the 8th GOP chairman to bow out ahead of midterms". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  16. ^ "This is the weirdest race in the country". POLITICO. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Robertson, Derek (June 6, 2018). "This is basically a home run for Democrats". Politico. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  18. ^ "Gil Cisneros". Ballotpedia. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  19. ^ "California's 39th Congressional District election, 2018 - Ballotpedia". Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  20. ^ "Dem Gil Cisneros scores win in open-seat race in California". TheHill. November 18, 2018. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  21. ^ "President Biden Announces His Intent to Nominate 11 Key Administration Leaders on National Security and Law Enforcement". The White House. April 12, 2021. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  22. ^ a b "PN426 — Gilbert Ray Cisneros Jr — Department of Defense". United States Congress. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  23. ^ "SASC Advances Nominations of Del Toro, Cisneros, Miller, Karlin, Connor, 1,986 Military Promotions" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: Senate Armed Services Committee. July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  24. ^ "PN426 - Nomination of Gilbert Ray Cisneros Jr for Department of Defense, 117th Congress (2021-2022)". Library of Congress. August 11, 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  25. ^ "She won $266 million; chatted on 'Oprah'". Orange County Register. May 24, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2018.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 39th congressional district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
Succeeded by
Ashish Vazirani
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative