Juan Vargas

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Juan Vargas
Juan Vargas official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 51st district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byBob Filner
Member of the California State Senate
from the 40th district
In office
December 6, 2010 – January 2, 2013
Preceded byDenise Moreno Ducheny
Succeeded byBen Hueso
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 79th district
In office
December 4, 2000 – December 4, 2006
Preceded byDenise Moreno Ducheny
Succeeded byMary Salas
Member of San Diego City Council
from the 8th district
In office
February 22, 1993 – December 4, 2000
Preceded byBob Filner
Succeeded byRalph Inzunza
Personal details
Juan Carlos Vargas

(1961-03-07) March 7, 1961 (age 59)
National City, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Adrienne D'Ascoli
(m. 1990)
EducationUniversity of San Diego (BA)
Fordham University (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Juan Carlos Vargas (born March 7, 1961) is an American businessman and politician who has been the U.S. Representative for California's 51st congressional district since 2013. The district includes all of Imperial County as well as the southernmost portions of San Diego County.[1]

Vargas previously served as a Democratic member in the California State Senate representing the 40th district, the California State Assembly representing the 79th district, and the San Diego City Council.

Early life and education[edit]

Juan Vargas was born on a chicken ranch in National City, California, where he grew up very poor.[2] He is the third of ten children of Tomas and Celina Vargas, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the late 1940s as part of the Bracero program.[3] Vargas graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA from University of San Diego and earned an MA in Humanities from Fordham University in New York City.

After college, Vargas joined the Jesuit Novitiate (introduction) in Santa Barbara. In the Jesuits, Vargas served in an orphanage in the civil-war-torn jungles of El Salvador. After leaving the Jesuits, he decided on law school and graduated in 1991 with a JD from Harvard Law School.[4]

Early political career (1992–2000)[edit]

1992 congressional election[edit]

In 1992, he decided to run for the newly created 50th congressional district, which was based in San Diego. He lost the Democratic primary, ranking fourth with 19% of the vote. Bob Filner won the primary with a plurality of just 26%[5] and went on to win the election.

San Diego City Council[edit]

Vargas served on the San Diego City Council from 1993–2000. While on the Council, he created "Operation Restore" to employ homeless individuals to remove graffiti and to rehabilitate homes.[6]

1996 congressional election[edit]

In 1996, Vargas decided to challenge Filner in the Democratic primary. Vargas wouldn't debate Filner, so the incumbent instead sparred with a life-sized Vargas cardboard cutout. Vargas said he agrees with Filner on "99 percent" of issues.[7] Filner defeated him 55%–45%.[8]

California State Assembly (2000–2007)[edit]


In 2000, Vargas decided to run for California's 79th State Assembly district. He defeated Republican Jon Parungao 77%–19%.[9][10] In 2002, he defeated Republican Mark Fast 66%–30%.[11] In 2004, he defeated Libertarian Eli Wallace Conroe 85%–15%.[12]


In his first year in the Assembly, he was appointed Assistant Majority Leader. He authored AB 188, which was legislation that bans smoking in children's playgrounds. He also introduced legislation aimed at protecting children from arcade video games. Vargas also authored legislation to mandate life sentences for people who commit violent sex crimes against children, which served as a model for Chelsea's Law.[13]

Committee assignments[edit]

  • Business and Professions[14]
  • Insurance (Chair)[15]

2006 congressional election[edit]

In 2006 Vargas decided to challenge Filner for a third time, this time in California's 51st congressional district. Vargas accused Filner of being a part of the culture of corruption of Washington, pointing out that Filner had paid his wife more than $500,000 in campaign funds for consulting services performed from their condominium in Washington. Filner in return argued that Vargas had controversial payments to his brother-in-law, who was a lobbyist for realtors.[16][17] Filner defeated Vargas 51%–43%, with Danny Ramirez getting 6% of the vote.[10][18][19]

Business career (2007–2009)[edit]

After leaving the State Assembly in 2006 due to term limits, Vargas took a job with a home, auto and small business insurance company, where he was tasked with creating jobs and outreach in diverse San Diego Communities as part of the company's diversity initiative.[citation needed] Vargas left that job at the end of 2009 to run as a Democratic candidate for the California State Senate.

California State Senate (2010–2013)[edit]

2010 election[edit]

In 2010 Vargas narrowly won a seat in the California's 40th State Senate district. He defeated Assemblywoman Mary Salas by 22 votes, after recounts in San Diego and Riverside counties. He resigned from the Senate effective January 2, 2013 so that he could take his seat as a Congressman. A special election to fill his seat was held in March 2013.[20]

Committee assignments[edit]

Standing Committees
  • Banking & Financial Institutions (Chair)
  • Agriculture
  • Business, Professions, and Economic Development
  • Education
  • Public Employment and Retirement
  • Education: Sustainable School Facilities
Joint Committee
Select Committee
  • Recovery, Reform, and Re-Alignment[22]

U.S. House of Representatives (2012–present)[edit]

2012 election[edit]

Vargas in 2012

In 2012 when Filner announced he would retire from Congress to run for Mayor of San Diego, Vargas endorsed him despite their history of bitter rivalry.[23] Vargas then ran for Filner's seat in the 51st district. In the open primary, he ranked first with 46% of the vote. Republican Michael Crimmins ranked second with 20%, Democratic State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny came in third with 15%, and four other candidates received single digit percentages.[24] In November, he defeated Crimmins 71%–29%.[25][26]


He was sworn in on January 3, 2013.

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Personal life[edit]

He and his wife, Adrienne, live in the Golden Hill area of San Diego and have two daughters, Rosa Celina and Helena Jeanne. During the 1999 armed conflict in Kosovo, Vargas welcomed a Kosovar refugee family into his family's home for nearly two years.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "District 51" (PDF). California Redistricting Commission certified map. Healthy City. August 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  2. ^ Viebeck, Elise (9 August 2017). "Border wall hits close to home: Trump's immigration policy raises old fears for Congress's first-generation Americans". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Full Biography". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Senator Juan Vargas: California Senate District 40". California State Senate. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA District 50 – D Primary Race – Jun 02, 1992". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  6. ^ Mork, Janis (November 7, 2012). "Meet Congressman Juan Vargas, who wins seat in 51st congressional district". East County Magazine. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-05. Retrieved 2013-01-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA District 50 – D Primary Race – Mar 26, 1996". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA State Assembly 79 Race – Nov 07, 2000". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  10. ^ a b LaVelle, Philip J.; Dani Dodge (June 7, 2006). "Bilbray edges out Busby". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA State Assembly 79 Race – Nov 05, 2002". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA State Assembly 79 Race – Nov 02, 2004". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  14. ^ "USATODAY.com – Consumer-backed bill fails; industry measure passes committee". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Calif. Commissioner Formally Enforces Regulatory Powers Over SCIF". 21 March 2003. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  16. ^ "Login". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Mudslinging, issues pit Vargas against Filner". Imperial Valley Press Online. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA District 51 – D Primary Race – Jun 06, 2006". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  19. ^ Raftery, Miriam (June 5, 2006). "Bigamy, bribery, other allegations plague California congressional race". The Raw Story. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  20. ^ Walker, Mark (January 3, 2013). "Peters, Vargas ready for Washington fray". San Diego Union Tribune.
  21. ^ "Home – Senator". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Juan Vargas, Democrat for United States Congress". Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  23. ^ Liam Dillon (2 November 2012). "The Politics of Bob Filner's Personality". Voice of San Diego. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013. Last summer, Juan Vargas walked up to Filner in a beer line at a South Bay festival with a message he's never given Filner before. Vargas told Filner he was going to endorse him.
  24. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA – District 51 – Open Primary Race – Jun 05, 2012". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  25. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA – District 51 Race – Nov 06, 2012". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Presidential General Election, Tuesday, November 5, 2012" (PDF). United States Representative. California Secretary of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  27. ^ "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  28. ^ "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  29. ^ "90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members". Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved 20 October 2018.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bob Filner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 51st congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mark Takano
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Marc Veasey