State Senator Juan Vargas is campaigning for the 51st Congressional District.
He is running against former California State Senator Denise Ducheny.
Vargas, 51, was born in National City and has lived all over San Diego, including Chula Vista.
Vargas, who grew up Catholic, said his parents taught him the value of hard work.
“They believe that … we should be people for others and make the world a better place,” he said.
Vargas attended the University of San Diego thinking he would become a Catholic priest. He graduated with honors, obtaining his bachelor’s in political science in 1983.
In 1987, Vargas earned a master of humanities from Fordham University in New York City and four years later, a juris doctor from Harvard Law School.
He then joined the Jesuits and worked with disadvantaged communities in the jungles of El Salvador for several years.
“When I got into law … you can do good things with the wealth but you’re not working day to day on public good,” he said. “I thought, I really want to do something where I’m directly helping people.”
He was elected to the San Diego City Council in 1993 and served for eight years, where he took on leadership roles in planning, advocating for public safety, municipal infrastructure and schools.
Vargas has been a civic leader in San Diego and Imperial County for 20 years, serving as an activist, San Diego city councilmember and State Assembly member.
Vargas said the top issues for this district he will focus on if elected include job creation, healthcare and education.
“We’ve got to have more jobs,” he said. “I think the (San Diego Unified) port can be a good engine for that. They are very good jobs because they are very high paying...”
Vargas said he is a strong advocate for military veterans and will work hard to ensure they are provided with the proper health care, counseling and job training.
He also wrote the Neighborhood Business Protection Act to help small local businesses create jobs and training programs.
In addition, Vargas has also been vice president of two Fortune 500 companies, both of which are home, auto and small business insurance companies, which helped bring jobs to Southern California.
“…A lot of Democrats don’t have business experience,” he said. “I know a lot about business and whether corporations that come to California will work or not.”
Vargas previously opposed Social Security and Medicare cuts and fought to eliminate tax breaks for large corporations and multi-millionaires.
“I think we have to protect Medicare and Social Security,” he said. “I’m going to fight to do that.”
As far as education, Vargas said it’s gotten off track at the federal level.
“We’re doing too much testing and not enough teaching,” he said. “We have to prepare them for the future not just a test, such as vocational training.”
Vargas said the most impactful bill he co-founded was AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, setting in place infrastructure for renewable energy in the state.
“We said that global warming is real and that California needs to do something about it,” he said. “I think it set a tone for the nation that green energy is important.”
In 2000, Vargas was elected to the State Assembly as a representative to the 79th District, serving western Chula Vista and National City.
Vargas said he has a history of making things happen in the community.
“I’ve had their (voters) support all these years and I’d be honored to have their support again,” he said.
Vargas lives in San Diego with his wife Adrienne and two daughters.