My journey to serving our nation started five years ago after the 2016 election. All of us witnessed a heated campaign where some voters, especially those in the middle, often felt they were being forced to make a decision based on personalities versus policy. And for many of us, our hearts sank when the candidate lacking all character and integrity was elected to become the next President of the United States.
While we struggled with the regret of not having elected the first woman president of our great country, we quickly put aside our disappointment and mobilized and engaged – with women here in Orange County and across our country leading the way – to make sure we took back the House in 2018 as a bulwark against the Trump administration. In November of that year, we saw your commitment and engagement lead us to victories across America, including the defeat of a 30-year incumbent – known as Russia’s Favorite Congressman – right here in the reddest part of Orange County, and sending me to Congress. For over 30 years, hundreds of thousands of Orange County residents lacked the representation they deserved in the halls of Congress, and you changed that.
Thanks to you and the swell of support of the now famous Blue Wave, I am very proud of what I was able to achieve in the 116th Congress:
- Returned over $2 million for seniors, veterans, and working families.
- During the coronavirus crisis, secured over $1 billion to support small businesses.
- Served as the Chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Environment:
- Held the Trump Administration accountable as they worked to attack and remove common-sense environmental protections.
- Oversaw dozens of hearings and meetings on climate change and provided to the House of Representatives a comprehensive plan to address climate change: Findings and Recommendations to the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress to Advance Climate Action.
- Brought to the forefront of environmental issues the severe and growing contamination impact of PFAS chemicals on our access to clean drinking water and food.
- Drafted comprehensive legislation to address moving spent nuclear fuel sitting in approximately 100 communities across the U.S. including here at San Onofre.
- Introduced legislation to address our ever-growing national deficit.
- Was the most legislatively productive new Member of Congress and passing three bills into law by reaching across the aisle and finding common ground in a deeply divided Congress.
- Helped elect more new Democrats to office in my district than anywhere else in Orange County.
- Registered tens of thousands of Democrats across the county, brought vaccines to the doorsteps of thousands of homes, and aided residents through the tough immigration process.
That’s the good news. Now the bad news. I witnessed first-hand as the political extremes of our nation continue to worsen, dividing our country, and moving us further away from the democratic ideals aspired to by our Founders. Politicians who cared more about making sure the other side didn’t get a “win” even if it was good for the country; manipulating science for political gains; and media hounds who care more about sound bites and raising money than actually doing the hard work of legislating.
So here we are. A country that seems to be spiraling down to a place where only the extremes are heard; where we have contempt for anyone who disagrees with us; where there is less and less of a place for moderates to serve. And unfortunately, that is the outcome for me.
While I do believe I would represent my district best, I am also pragmatic. I have no interest in running against a Democratic incumbent who has decided to run in this district. I have no interest in running in a different district where I’ve never had the honor to represent the vast majority of constituents – and who I believe can be best served by someone who knows them, knows their communities, knows their struggles, and knows their aspirations.
To that end, I am officially suspending my campaign for Congress.
Until I am called upon to serve my country again, I will focus on other ways to help. Towards that end, I have established the Join Together PAC to support candidates up and down the ballot who are committed to common sense values. Because I have never lost sight of the core democratic truth that our representatives are elected to serve the people — not their own egos, their party, corporate donors, or special interests. We need leaders who are willing to put country and community over party. Our nation cannot endure under the rule of leaders incapable of putting patriotism over personal political aspirations.
I want to thank the thousands of volunteers who powered our campaign and made our many accomplishments possible. Our community, country, and I, owe you an irredeemable debt of gratitude for your advocacy and activism. And to my team, during all the election cycles, and to my amazing district office and DC staff: Thank you. You represent the best of what our country can be. And to our campaign team, thank you for your commitment and leadership. We would have flipped this seat.
Most importantly, I want to thank Kaira, Dylan, Avery, Trace, and Shea. The hardships family members endure when a loved one is campaigning and in office are difficult to say the least – including threats of violence and death. I never imagined when I decided to run for office that I would need armed guards when speaking at town-halls, nor that I would own a bullet-proof vest. That unfortunately is where the division and extremism has taken our country.
It has been the great honor of my life to serve Orange County’s Coastal congressional district. And, as I move on to another new chapter in my life, I would like to leave you with a few quotes to remind all of us to fight on for the greater good:
“Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”
Representative John Lewis
John Lewis was larger than life. Having the opportunity to serve with him and travel with my entire family and John to his last pilgrimage to Selma will always be one of the most poignant and meaningful moments of my life. No one has fought harder to make sure every voter can vote, and every vote is counted. Since being elected, I have kept a picture of John on a shelf behind my desk to remind me that the path forward will be difficult, and all of us must remember, “if not us, whom? If not now, when?”
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
I’ve never been more concerned for our democracy as we continue to see the Big Lie embraced by those who care more about power rather than doing their patriotic duty and fighting for our country. We are rapidly slipping towards authoritarianism and fascism and, if we don’t reverse course soon, I fear our great democratic experiment may be in jeopardy.
Finally, no one was as succinct with words than Mark Twain, whose words ring truer now due to the omnipresence of social media.
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
As we enter the New Year, let’s make a collective resolution in service of our democracy. I commit to you, my supporters, that I will continue to reach out and share candidates you should support and actions we can take to protect and heal our great nation.