Gloria Negrete McLeod entered elective office as a second career. She and her husband first raised a large family before she went to school to complete her education. She served in the California state assembly for three terms and then became a state senator for three more terms. Her successful career in the state legislature only ended because of term limits. When redistricting opened a new U.S. congressional district in 2012 she took the opportunity to run for the U.S. House of Representatives at the age of 71. But she discovered Washington was not Sacramento, and as a first-term Member in the minority party she became frustrated with the loss of influence. “I really want to be able to serve the community,” she later said, “and in Congress it was a lot harder to make an impact on the district.”1
Gloria Negrete was born on September 6, 1941, in Los Angeles, California.2 By the late 1970s Negrete lived in Chino in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles County. She married Gilbert L. McLeod, a policeman, and they raised 10 children. By 2014 the couple could boast of 27 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. In her late thirties Negrete McLeod began a transition from homemaker when she earned an A.A. in General Education in 1979 from Chaffey Community College in nearby Rancho Cucamonga. From 1986 to 1995 she was a college instructional aide at Chaffey.3
Negrete McLeod began her public career in 1995 as a member of the Chaffey Community College Board. While on the board she ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination to the state assembly in 1998. In 1999 she worked as a field campaigner for Joe Baca, Sr.’s successful U.S. House campaign and became the president of the Chaffey Community College Board. In 2000 Negrete McLeod won election to the California state assembly on a campaign for early-childhood programs as an investment toward future economic growth and lower crime rates. Limited to three terms, she successfully ran for the state senate in 2006. There Negrete McLeod became the head of the public employment and retirement committee where she concentrated on California’s public employees’ retirement system. During the course of her 12 years serving in the state legislature she was proud to have sponsored more than 160 bills into law through three different governors.4
When term limits ended Negrete McLeod’s state senate career in 2012 a new U.S. congressional district had been created out of southwestern San Bernardino County. The new 35th District overlapped Negrete McLeod’s state senate district considerably with a population that was 70 percent Hispanic. In September 2011, at the age of 71, she decided to run for the U.S. House seat. Early in 2012 Representative Joe Baca, Sr., whose previous district had been cut in half, decided to run in the new and safer 35th District, even though he did not live within its boundaries. He entered the race with a considerable campaign war chest that easily swamped Negrete McLeod’s. The open primary was held on June 5 with the two top vote getters running in the general election if no one received a majority of the votes cast. Baca won 45 percent with Negrete McLeod coming in second with 36 percent.5
In the general campaign the Chino Champion endorsed Negrete McLeod because “she lives in Chino and knows the community.” But funding from outside the district helped tilt the race in Negrete McLeod’s favor. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s super organization “Independence USA PAC” had been established with Bloomberg’s personal funds to support candidates who favored same-sex marriage, school reform, and tough gun control laws. Bloomberg targeted Baca for his weak stand on gun control, pouring $3 million into the race to oppose the incumbent. On Election Day Negrete McLeod won with 56 percent of the votes cast. “If it hadn’t been for Bloomberg and his super PAC,” Baca complained, “I would have won the race.” He promised that he would challenge Negrete McLeod in 2014.6
Arriving in the 113th Congress (2013–2015) Negrete McLeod enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest freshman of her class.7 She was assigned to two standing House committees. The first was the Agriculture Committee where she served on three subcommittees: Conservation, Energy and Forestry; Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition; and General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.8 The other assignment was to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee where she served on two subcommittees: Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and Health.9 She also joined a number of caucuses: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the Native American Caucus, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, the USO Congressional Caucus, the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, the Congressional Steel Caucus, and the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.10
One of Negrete McLeod’s first acts as a new House Member concerned gun control. The fatal shooting of students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, took place just a month before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in late January 2013. Members of the House Democratic Caucus made an effort to get as many of the parents of the slain children into the House Chamber for the address as possible. In cooperation with Representative Lois Frankel of Florida, Negrete McLeod extended invitations to the parents of Grace McDonnell, ensuring that both could attend. The parents’ “presence at the President’s address this Tuesday,” Negrete McLeod stated, “will also serve as a powerful reminder that victims of gun violence are not just those who perish, but those who suffer from losing a loved one.”11
The focus of Negrete McLeod’s energies during her first year, however, largely dealt with issues associated with her committee assignments. Of the four bills she introduced in 2013, two concerned the Veterans Affairs Department: H.R. 1251, the Veteran Excellence through Education Act, and H.R. 1623, to expedite public information on veterans’ compensation claims.12 The other two bills concerned student loans (H.R. 2349) and motor-coach safety (H.R. 2505).13 She also spoke on the House Floor about improving the evaluation of disability compensation for veterans, taking action on the backlog of veterans’ disability claims, extending veterans assistance programs, and assistance to disabled veterans training for the Paralympic Team.14
While many of Negrete McLeod’s Floor remarks stemmed from her service on the Veterans Affairs Committee, she did not neglect her Agriculture Committee responsibilities. In June 2013 she introduced an amendment to H.R. 1947 (the Food and Nutrition Programs reauthorization) that would mandate a demonstration project study of Native American administration of federal food assistance programs.15 Later in the session, Negrete McLeod was appointed to the conference committee on H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.16 When the debate over H.R. 3102, making changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) began in September, she opposed the Republican majority’s handling of the bill in a one-minute speech given at the beginning of the September 18 session.17 Negrete McLeod also gained the opportunity to participate in the general debate on the bill the next day.18
During the second session, 2014, the Negrete McLeod’s House activities diminished after announcing in February that she would not run for reelection. She again introduced four bills that died in committee. Two dealt with veterans policies: H.R. 4053 would set provisions for mammograms at VA health facilities, and H.R. 4140 would provide financial assistance to facilities caring for the dependents of homeless veterans.19 Her other two measures were H.R. 4104 to make senior medical care deduction thresholds permanent and H.R. 4710 on Defense Department entitlement lands payments.20
In February 2014 Negrete McLeod announced her candidacy for the San Bernardino County board of supervisors.21 The reason for her decision to leave the House was, in part, due to homesickness. “My desire to represent this community locally, where I have lived for more than 40 years, and where I have long served as an elected official, won out,” she said.22 More importantly, her service in Washington in the Democratic minority proved frustrating. “I went to Congress with a full intent to work there and get things done,” she admitted, “and found it was not the right place for me.”23 She concluded that Congress was “a place where nothing gets done.”24
Negrete McLeod ran unsuccessfully against Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman for one of two open board of supervisors positions in the fall of 2014.25
1Jeff Horseman, “Political Veterans Battle for Supervisorial Seat,” 11 October 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.
2State of California, California Birth Index, 1905–1995 (Sacramento: State of California Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Health Statistics).
3See Politics in America 2014 (Washington, DC: CQ-Roll Call, 2013): 134; Almanac of American Politics 2014 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013): 239; Imran Ghori, “Two Supervisorial Seats to Be Decided in June 3 Election,” 19 May 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.
4“Full Biography” in Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod http://negretemcleod.house.gov/about/full biography (accessed 13 March 2014); Politics in America 2014: 134; Almanac of American Politics 2014: 239–240.
5Politics in America 2014: 134; Almanac of American Politics 2014: 239–240; Cynthia Mondoza, “Gonzales Wins With Over 62%,” 7 June 2012, El Chicano Weekly: A3.
6Almanac of American Politics 2014: 240; Raymond Hernandez, “For Bloomberg, a ‘Super PAC’ of His Making,” 18 October 2012, New York Times: A1; “With Guns Blazing,” 19 October 2012, New York Daily News: 34; Election Statistics, 1920 to Present, http://history.house.gov/Institution/Election-Statistics/Election-Statistics/ ; Michael Howard Saul, “Mayor Backs Vote Winners,” 8 November 2012, Wall Street Journal: n.p.; Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake, “Mitt Romney Is Back,” 25 January 2013, Washington Post: n.p.
7Richard Simon, “California’s Freshman Class,” 4 January 2013, Los Angeles Times: AA1.
8“Full Biography”; Almanac of American Politics 2014: 239.
9“Full Biography”; Almanac of American Politics 2014: 239. Negrete McLeod had served on a similar committee in the California senate. See Politics in America 2014: 134.
10Congressional Directory, 113th Congress, S.Pub. 113–12: 37. See also “Rep. Negrete McLeod Takes Father of Newtown Victim to State of the Union,” 14 February 2013, El Chicano Weekly: A6.
11“Rep. Negrete McLeod Takes Father of Newtown Victim to State of the Union.”
12Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 20 March 2013: H1641; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 18 April 2013: H2157.
13Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 13 June 2013: H3950; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 26 June 2013: H4078.
14Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 14 June: H3031; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 28 October 2013: H6792; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 10 December 2013: H7617.
15Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 19 June 2013: H3915.
16Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 12 October 2013: H6557.
17Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 18 September 2013: H5599.
18Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 1st sess., 19 September 2013: H5709.
19Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 2d sess., 11 February 2014: H1770; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 2d sess., 4 March 2016: H2147.
20Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 2d sess., 27 February 2014: H2064; Congressional Record Daily Edition, 113th Cong., 2d sess., 21 May 2014: H4784.
21Kate Zernike, “New Jersey Congressman Won’t Seek a 9th Term,” 19 February 2014, New York Times: A15.
22Paul Singer, “On Politics,” 23 February 2014, Louisville Courier-Journal: B3.
23Ghori, “Two Supervisorial Seats to Be Decided in June 3 Election.”
24Matthew Fleming, “When Being a County Supervisor Is More Appealing than Congress,” 31 October 2014, Roll Call: n.p.
25Ghori, “Two Supervisorial Seats to Be Decided”; Stephen Wall, “Hagman Leads Negrete McLeod for Supervisor,” 5 November 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=N000187 (accessed 10 August 2015).