Gloria Negrete McLeod entered public office as a second career. After raising a large family and completing her education, Negrete McLeod served in the California state legislature for six terms. In 2012, at the age of 71, she won a seat in the United States House of Representatives from a Sacramento-area district. But 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 McLeod was born Gloria Negrete on September 6, 1941, in Los Angeles, California.2 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 30s, Negrete McLeod earned an associate’s degree in general education from Chaffey Community College in nearby Rancho Cucamonga in 1979. 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, which she later chaired. She ran unsuccessfully for the state assembly in 1998, and in 1999 was a campaign aide for Joe Baca when he won a seat in the U.S. House. In 2000 Negrete McLeod won election to the California state assembly. Limited to three terms in the assembly, she successfully ran for the state senate in 2006 and became the head of the public employment and retirement committee where she concentrated on California’s public employees’ retirement system. More than 160 of her bills became law during her time in the state legislature.4
With term limits set to end Negrete McLeod’s state senate career in 2012, she decided to run for a new congressional district that had been created out of southwestern San Bernardino County. The new Thirty-Fifth District, which was 70 percent Hispanic, overlapped Negrete McLeod’s state senate district considerably. In the primary she faced Representative Joe Baca, whose previous district had been cut in half during the redistricting process and who had decided to run in the new district, despite not living within its boundaries. In the early June primary, Baca won 45 percent of the vote and Negrete McLeod came in second with 36 percent. Both moved onto the general election.5
Negrete McLeod won local endorsements as outside money flooded the race—New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign organization poured $3 million into the contest in support of her. On Election Day, Negrete McLeod won with 56 percent of the vote.6
In the 113th Congress (2013–2015), Negrete McLeod—at 71, the oldest freshman lawmaker in her class—was assigned to two committees: Agriculture, where she served on three subcommittees: Conservation, Energy and Forestry; Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition; and General Farm Commodities and Risk Management; and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee where she served on two subcommittees: Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and Health.7
One of Negrete McLeod’s first acts as a new Member concerned gun control. The unspeakable fatal mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, took place in December 2012, in between the election and the start of the new Congress. For President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in late January 2013, Negrete McLeod extended invitations to the parents of Grace McDonnell, one of the victims of the shooting. 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.”8
From the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Negrete McLeod worked to open educational opportunities for servicemen and women, and sought to expedite public information on veterans’ compensation claims.9 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 providing assistance to disabled veterans training for the Paralympic Team.10 In 2014 she worked to open access to mammograms at VA health facilities, and sought better funding for facilities caring for the dependents of homeless veterans.11
Using her seat on the Agriculture Committee, Negrete McLeod introduced an amendment to a larger food and nutrition bill requiring the government to study and improve how it managed food assistance programs among Native American communities.12 Negrete McLeod was also appointed to the conference committee to finalize the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.13
In February 2014, Negrete McLeod announced that she would not run for re-election, but would instead run for the San Bernardino County board of supervisors.14 “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.15 But it was also the case that serving in the minority took its toll. “I went to Congress with a full intent to work there and get things done,” she said, “and found it was not the right place for me.”16 Congress, she later said, was “a place where nothing gets done.”17
In the fall of 2014, Negrete McLeod lost to Republican assemblyman Curt Hagman for one of two open seats on the board of supervisors. In 2015 she was elected to the Chaffey Community College district governing board.18
1Jeff Horseman, “Political Veterans Battle for Supervisorial Seat,” 11 October 2014, Orange County Register (Anaheim, CA): n.p.
2State of California, California Birth Index, 1905–1995 (Sacramento: State of California Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Health Statistics), https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
3Politics in America, 2014 (Washington, DC: CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 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,” official website of Representative Gloria Negrete McLeod, 14 March 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20140314052432/http://negretemcleod.house.gov/about/full-biography; 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 Mendoza, “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; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present;” 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; “Full Biography,” official website of Representative Gloria Negrete McLeod; Almanac of American Politics, 2014: 239. Negrete McLeod had served on a similar committee in the California senate. See Politics in America, 2014: 134.
8“Rep. Negrete McLeod Takes Father of Newtown Victim to State of the Union.”
9Veteran Excellence through Education Act, H.R. 1251, 113th Cong. (2013); Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (20 March 2013) H1641; Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (18 April 2013): H2157.
10Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (14 June 2013): H3031; Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (28 October 2013): H6792; Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (10 December 2013): H7617.
11VA Timely Mammogram Results Act of 2014, H.R. 4053, 113th Cong. (2014); Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2014, H.R. 4140, 113th Cong. (2014); Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. (11 February 2014): H1770; Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 2nd sess. (4 March 2016): H2147.
12Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (19 June 2013): H3915.
13Congressional Record, House, 113th Cong., 1st sess. (12 October 2013): H6557.
14Kate Zernike, “New Jersey Congressman Won’t Seek a 9th Term,” 19 February 2014, New York Times: A15.
15Paul Singer, “On Politics,” 23 February 2014, Louisville Courier-Journal (KY): B3.
16Ghori, “Two Supervisorial Seats to Be Decided In June 3 Election.”
17Matthew Fleming, “When Being a County Supervisor Is More Appealing than Congress,” 31 October 2014, Roll Call: n.p.
18Ghori, “Two Supervisorial Seats to Be Decided In June 3 Election”; Stephen Wall, “Hagman Leads Negrete McLeod for Supervisor,” 5 November 2014, Orange County Register: n.p.; “Gloria Negrete McLeod,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; Melissa Pinion, “Chaffey College Announces 2019–2020 Governing Board Officers, Gloria Negrete McLeod Elected President,” Chaffey College, press release, 17 July 2019, https://www.chaffey.edu/releases/2019/2019-july-17-gbofficers.shtml.