|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from California's 51st district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Bob Filner|
|Member of the California State Senate|
from the 40th district
December 6, 2010 – January 2, 2013
|Preceded by||Denise Moreno Ducheny|
|Succeeded by||Ben Hueso|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 79th district
December 4, 2000 – November 30, 2006
|Preceded by||Denise Moreno Ducheny|
|Succeeded by||Mary Salas|
|Member of San Diego City Council|
from the 8th district
February 22, 1993 – December 4, 2000
|Preceded by||Bob Filner|
|Succeeded by||Ralph Inzunza|
Juan Carlos Vargas
March 7, 1961
National City, California, U.S.
|Residence(s)||San Diego, California, U.S.|
|Education||University of San Diego (BA)|
Fordham University (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
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 and the southernmost portions of San Diego County.
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.
Vargas was born on a chicken ranch in National City, California, where he grew up very poor. 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. Vargas graduated magna cum laude with a BA from the University of San Diego and earned an MA in humanities from Fordham University.
After college, Vargas joined the Jesuit Novitiate in Santa Barbara. In the Jesuits, Vargas served in an orphanage in El Salvador's civil-war-torn jungles. After leaving the Jesuits, he attended law school, graduating in 1991 with a JD from Harvard Law School.
In 1992, Vargas ran in the newly created 50th congressional district, 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 26% and went on to win the election.
Vargas served on the San Diego City Council from 1993 to 2000. While on the council, he created "Operation Restore" to employ homeless people to remove graffiti and to rehabilitate homes.
In 1996, Vargas challenged 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 agreed with Filner on "99 percent" of issues. Filner defeated him 55%–45%.
In 2000, Vargas ran in California's 79th State Assembly district. He defeated Republican Jon Parungao 77%–19%. In 2002, he defeated Republican Mark Fast 66%–30%. In 2004, he defeated Libertarian Eli Wallace Conroe 85%–15%.
In his first year in the Assembly, Vargas was appointed Assistant Majority Leader. He authored AB 188, legislation that bans smoking in children's playgrounds. He also introduced legislation aimed at protecting children from arcade video games, and authored legislation to mandate life sentences for people who commit violent sex crimes against children, which served as a model for Chelsea's Law.
In 2006 Vargas challenged Filner a third time, this time in California's 51st congressional district. He 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 argued that Vargas had controversial payments to his brother-in-law, who was a lobbyist for realtors. Filner defeated Vargas 51%–43%, with Danny Ramirez getting 6% of the vote.
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. He left that job at the end of 2009 to run as a Democratic candidate for the California State Senate.
In 2010 Vargas narrowly won a seat in the California's 40th State Senate district, defeating Assemblywoman Mary Salas by 22 votes after recounts in San Diego and Riverside counties. He resigned from the Senate effective January 2, 2013, to take his seat in Congress. A special election to fill his seat was held in March 2013.
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. 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 third with 15%, and four other candidates received single-digit percentages. In November, he defeated Crimmins 71%–29%.
In 2019, Vargas spent $124,200 of campaign money on photography, printing, postage, mailing and shipping of holiday cards that he sent to constituents.
Vargas was sworn in on January 3, 2013. In 2015, he and his wife, Adrienne, spent five days in Berlin and Elmau, Germany. The trip was paid for by Robert Bosch Stiftung and the German Marshall Fund and cost $18,200. Part of Vargas's congressional work, the trip was to help him develop "a greater understanding of the key legislative topics of the 114th Congress through our [Germany and the United States] transatlantic relationship."
Vargas has a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and an F rating from the Susan B. Anthony List for his abortion-related voting record. He opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, calling it "fundamentally wrong and extremely disappointing, impacting millions of women across the country."
Vargas and his wife, Adrienne, have two daughters.
During the 1999 armed conflict in Kosovo, Vargas welcomed a Kosovar refugee family into his family's home for nearly two years.
((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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.