Democratic candidate and Monterey County prosecutor Jimmy Panetta outdistanced Pacific Grove City Councilwoman and Republican Casey Lucius by more than 50 percentage points in the race for the open seat in the 20th Congressional District. The two will be on the ballot in November, as California election rules dictate that the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 8 general election. The seat previously was held by Panetta's father, former congressman and President Bill Clinton cabinet-member Leon Panetta, prior to Sam Farr holding the seat for the past two decades until his announced retirement this year.
Other candidates running for the seat included Joe Williams of Santa Cruz and Jack Digby of Capitola.
Farr publicly endorsed Panetta on March 17, calling him “passionate about the district.” Farr called Panetta “a local kid — he knows this area.”
On election day, while the polls were still open, Panetta spoke to BenitoLink about the work that he and his staff had put into his congressional campaign over the past few months:
“It was very important to me that people here connect to my ideas and values, not just to my last name," he said. "We’ve put a focus on reaching out to the residents of all four counties [Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey]. So far, 19 of the 20 District Supervisors have endorsed me, and the only who hasn’t endorsed me is [District 1 Supervisor] Mike Wasserman, who hasn’t endorsed anyone. So we’re very excited. We [my staff and I] are very excited to keep working through the day, right up to the time that the results of the polls are announced, and after that to continue working for the people of Central California.”
As of 6:47 p.m. Friday, with all precincts reporting, Panetta led Lucius 71.3 percent to 20 percent district-wide, outpacing the Pacific Grove City Councilwoman 68,106 votes to 19,079 votes.
After polling booths closed Tuesday, BenitoLink spoke with Panetta about his congressional plans if he were to win in November.
“We so appreciate everyone who went out to vote today, and I’m going to continue working on the issues that I’ve been working on throughout my campaign, because the issues haven’t changed," he said. "We need to focus on bringing comprehensive immigration reform to the county, and making sure that there is enough funding for mental health resources for residents of all the counties of District 20. I’m very optimistic about immigration reform. The Senate passed a huge overhaul of immigration reform bills in 2013, but it was public leadership that failed to push those forward and represent the majority. If the California coalition could come together to lead comprehensive reform, then we could see changes in the county and state levels about these important issues.”
Panetta grew up in the Central California area, earning his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis, and his law degree from Santa Clara University. He has been a local prosecutor since 1996, and spent time in Afghanistan with the United States Navy Reserve, where he served as an intelligence officer.