|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from California's 20th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||Sam Farr|
James Varni Panetta
October 1, 1969
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Parent||Leon Panetta & Sylvia Varni|
|Education||Monterey Peninsula College|
University of California, Davis (BA)
Santa Clara University (JD)
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||2003–2011|
|Unit||United States Navy Reserve|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan|
James Varni Panetta (//; born October 1, 1969) is an American lawyer and politician from the state of California. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the U.S. representative for California's 20th congressional district. The district includes much of California's Central Coast, including Monterey, Salinas, Santa Cruz, and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Panetta was first elected in 2016, after working as a deputy district attorney for Monterey County. He is the son of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and holds the same congressional seat his father once held.
Panetta graduated from Carmel High School in Carmel, California. He then attended Monterey Peninsula College and University of California, Davis, graduating with a bachelor's degree in international relations. He then interned at the United States Department of State. Panetta received his J.D. degree from Santa Clara University School of Law. He joined the United States Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer and completed a tour of duty in the War in Afghanistan in 2007 while attached to Joint Special Operations Command, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Panetta worked in the Alameda County, California, prosecutor's office and as a deputy district attorney for the District Attorney's office of Monterey County, California.
After incumbent U.S. Representative Sam Farr announced in November 2015 that he would not seek reelection, Panetta announced his candidacy to succeed Farr in the 2016 election. His father had represented the district from 1977 to 1993.
Panetta defeated Republican Casey Lucius in the November general election. Democrats, in the persons of the Panettas and Farr, have held the seat and its predecessors without interruption since 1977. It is one of California's most Democratic districts outside Los Angeles and the Bay Area; Republicans have only garnered as much as 40% of the vote twice since 1977.
Panetta was reelected, defeating an independent challenger with 81.4% of the vote.
Panetta was reelected to a third term, defeating Republican challenger Jeff Gorman, a financial adviser, with 76.8% of the vote.
Panetta was sworn into office on January 3, 2017. House Democrats selected him to be a regional whip for Northern California, the Central Coast, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands.
Twice, in 2018 and in 2019, Panetta introduced a bill commonly stylized as the KITTEN Act, a legislative proposal to curtail certain types of animal testing.
As of October 2021, Panetta had voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 100% of the time.
As of 2020, Panetta has a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a F rating from the Susan B. Anthony List for his abortion-related voting history. He opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In 2022, Panetta was one of 16 Democrats to vote against the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022, an antitrust package that would crack down on corporations for anti-competitive behavior.
Panetta is the youngest of the three sons of Leon Panetta, the former United States Secretary of Defense. His wife, Carrie, is a judge on the Monterey County Superior Court. They have two daughters.