New San Diego congressional members sworn in: Juan Vargas, Scott Peters to begin terms

Men sworn in by House Speaker John Boehner

WASHINGTON - Two new members of San Diego's congressional delegation were sworn in by House Speaker John Boehner Thursday.

Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, both Democrats, are beginning their freshman terms following November election victories. Democrats will hold a 3-2 majority among local members of the House of Representatives.

Peters, a former port commissioner and ex-member of the San Diego City Council, unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, by a narrow margin in an election that wasn't decided until about a week after voters went to the polls.

"You're probably feeling a bit awestruck at this moment -- history runs through this building," Boehner told the new members. "And now, you're among a select few to share in this privilege. And for those of you who are returning, who have walked these aisles before, maybe it's time we get a little awestruck again."

Peters said he was "honored and eager" to take office.

He said his wife and two children joined him at the ceremony. He also attended a bipartisan prayer service at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., and held an open house at his Capitol Hill office.

"You get that strange feeling after such a busy day, of being both exhilarated and tired ... looking forward to getting started, " Peters told 10News via phone.

Vargas, who resigned his state senate seat Wednesday, is also an ex-councilman. He is filling the seat of Bob Filner, the 10-term Democratic congressman who gave up his seat to make a successful mayoral bid.

Peters has been assigned to the House Armed Services Committee, while Vargas will join the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna said Peters and Vargas will step into a bitterly partisan environment.

"According to academic studies, the United States Congress, in particular the House, is the most polarized since the Reconstruction era; we're talking 100 years," said Luna.

Peters said that's the biggest complaint he's heard from voters, who have told him they want Congress to work together and solve problems.

"That's our attitude going in, and if you talk to any other of the 80 of those who are new, that's what they'd all say," said Peters.

10News reporter Michael Chen asked Luna ,"Is there any way to reduce the polarization?"

"Two new congressmen in a big House have very little impact this time around," said Luna.

Luna said new House members don't have power positions in the committees and lack the social networks to gather allies.

"Freshmen congressmen keep their head down and listen to their leadership," said Luna.

Still, the local Democrats may find themselves knee-deep in upcoming debates.

Luna said while the minority Democrats must wait for Republicans to move the agenda, issues like the debt ceiling and spending cuts may force the two parties to come to the table.

"It could very well mean being a Democrat in this session of the Congress will give you more of a voice than in previous sessions," said Luna.

San Diego County is also represented by Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego); Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-El Cajon); and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

Print this article Back to Top