Former Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros Takes Biden Pentagon Post over Running for Congress Again

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2019, file photo, Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., speaks as the House of Representatives debate the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington. Cisneros is facing a challenge from Young Kim for California's 39th Congressional District. California’s tarnished Republican Party …
House Television via AP, File

Former California Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-CA) was nominated by President Joe Biden, Monday for under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Department of Defense. The move comes as yet another setback for House Democrats, who had hoped he would — as he had been signaling he might — run for his old seat, which he lost in 2020 to a Republican.

In the position of under secretary, Cisneros’s responsibility will be “the principal staff assistant and advisor to the Secretary of Defense for force readiness; force management; health affairs.” He will also be responsible for “National Guard and Reserve component affairs; education and training; and military and civilian personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and quality of life matters,” according to the under secretary’s office.

The White House press release said about Cisneros:

Cisneros enlisted in the United States Navy in 1989 after graduating from high school.  He was selected for the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training Program, received a Navy R.O.T.C. scholarship and was commissioned as an Officer in the United States Navy in 1994.

As a Congressman representing CA – 39, Cisneros served on both the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, and was a strong advocate, for our veterans, servicemembers and our military families.   He fought to address the issue of mental health and suicide amongst both our veterans and service members.  After the death of Spc. Venessa Guillén, he was invited to participate in discussions about the status of Latinos in the Army and helped to introduce the I Am Vanessa Guillén Act to make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  He has been an advocate for military families on issues of housing, child abuse, and exceptional family members.  He is committed to building a diverse military, and removing extremism from our ranks.

During the 2020 election, Republican Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) defeated Cisneros in California’s 39th congressional district, making Cisneros a one-term Congressman. Kim flipped the seat back to Republican after losing to Cisneros in the 2018 general election for an open seat. Kim won in 2020 by 1.2 percentage points, which was just 4,109 votes.

The Orange County Register reported Cisneros was leaving his options open, considering running again in 2022 in a rematch against Kim for another term. But now that he has been nominated on Monday for a post in the Biden administration, it seems unlikely that he will try to mount a comeback bid for Congress. That means Democrats will need to, in order to try to flip this seat back out of GOP hands, recruit a new face without the name recognition or resources that a former member brings to the district.

Cisneros previously told the Register that he hopes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) can “do a better job at micro-targeting voters in his district, recognizing, for example, that there are major differences between groups within the Latino and Asian American communities.”

He added that he might run again. “Everything is on the table,” he said. “This seat is definitely a possibility to run again. We didn’t lose by much.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) gloated over Cisneros seemingly bowing out of another run for his old seat, issuing a press release to say, “Cisneros sees the writing on the wall: He knows Democrats’ House majority is doomed and doesn’t want to spend another 10 million dollars” on his seat to be in the minority when the midterm elections come around in 2022.

An NRCC spokeswoman, Torunn Sinclair, added, “Gil Cisneros and California Democrats see the writing on the wall: Democrats’ House majority is doomed.”

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