Graciela Flores "Grace" Napolitano /nəˌpɒlᵻˈtɑːnoʊ/ (born December 4, 1936) is the U.S. Representative for California's 32nd congressional district, serving in Congress since 1999. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She previously served in the California State Assembly and the Norwalk City Council.
Napolitano previously represented the 34th district from 1999 to 2003, and the 38th district from 2003 to 2013. Due to redistricting, Napolitano ran for, and won re-election in the 2012 United States elections in California's 32nd congressional district against Republican candidate David Miller. In the 2014 midterm elections, Napolitano was reelected, defeating Republican challenger Arturo Alas.
Early life, education and career
Napolitano was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. After high school, she married and moved with her husband to California, where they raised five children.
Napolitano began her political career as a member of the Norwalk City Council, winning her first election in 1986 by a mere 28 votes. Four years later she won re-election by the highest margin of votes recorded in city history. In 1989, Napolitano was elevated by her council colleagues to serve as Mayor. During her council tenure, she focused much of her attention on providing access to constituents and on redevelopment and transportation issues to address the city's need for jobs and a more diversified economic base.
Napolitano made her way up through the ranks of Ford Motor Company for 21 years. Following her retirement in 1992, she was elected to the California Assembly, and became a leader on international trade, environmental protection, transportation and immigration. In 1996 she requested and received the creation of the first new California State Assembly Standing Committee in nine years, the Committee on International Trade, which she chaired until being termed out in 1998. In her six years in the Assembly, she also served as chair of the Women's Caucus and vice-chair of the Latino caucus.
U.S. House of Representatives
- Committee on Natural Resources
- Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands
- Subcommittee on Water and Power (Ranking Member)
- Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
- Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
- Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
- Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus
- Congressional Mental Health Caucus (Co-Chair)
- Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus
- International Conservation Caucus
Natural Resources Committee
Napolitano has been a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources since the 106th Congress and was selected the Chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee for the 110th Congress. She has promoted conservation, water recycling, desalination, and sound groundwater management and storage to address Southern California's need for adequate water quality and supply. She is proud of her legislative efforts on a number of fronts — assisting in the implementation of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, a water management plan for the State of California, protection of the ecosystem in the Bay-Delta and promotion of the use of advanced technologies. She is also a member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
At the start of the 110th Congress, Napolitano became the most senior new member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, with jurisdiction over America's aviation system, surface transportation, freight and passenger rail, the inland waterway system, international maritime commerce, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' support of the nation's water resources, and the federal clean water program. Napolitano's experience includes 6 years on the California State Assembly Transportation Committee, and current work on rail safety and congestion relief in the San Gabriel Valley.
Congressional Mental Health Caucus
Statistics showing one in three Latina adolescents contemplated suicide prompted Napolitano to spearhead a school-based Latina adolescent mental health program in three local middle schools and one high school. She co-chairs the Congressional Mental Health Caucus with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). The bipartisan caucus included more than 70 members during the 108th Congress and over 90 members during the 109th Congress. As co-chair, Napolitano has hosted congressional briefings on children and on veteran's mental health needs, working on proposals to improve VA mental health services. A key priority is legislation to provide mental health parity in health insurance.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
During the 109th Congress, Napolitano served as Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which continues to address national education, immigration, health, and civil rights issues, and the impact these policies have on the Hispanic community.
In the district
She claims responsibility for a $2.8 million Labor Department grant for precision and computer numeric control (CNC) machinists, $4 million to spur reuse and redevelopment of the Northrop Grumman B-2 facility in Pico Rivera, $1 million for upgrades to Cal Poly Pomona's Aerospace Engineering Laboratory Facilities, and $1 million for Central Atmospheric Monitoring Systems in Navy Submarines. These programs support research and development, helping expand the reach of local academic institutions and enhancing the local economy.
Napolitano is also concerned with suicide prevention among Latina adolescents noting that nearly one-out-of-three has seriously contemplated suicide, the highest rate for any ethnic or racial group in the country. In 2001, she claimed responsibility for getting funds included in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for a pilot project supporting school-based, mental health services in her district. To date, $1.6 million has been secured for this program now operating in 4 local schools.
In 2011, Napolitano voted against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 as part of a controversial provision that allows the government and the military to indefinitely detain American citizens and others without trial.
Health Task Force
Napolitano established a district Health Task Force composed of health providers, educators and experts throughout the local area. The Task Force helps keep the Congresswoman apprised of key health issues facing her constituents and works with the Congresswoman to devise programs and projects to improve health care and health outcomes for the local area. The Congresswoman also works with the Health Task Force to pursue funding options through California's Proposition 63 Mental Health Services Expansion and for additional training of nursing professionals at both the entry level (CNAs and LVNs) and RNs with advanced degrees.
Manufacturing Task Force
The Congresswoman has initiated a Manufacturing Task Force in her district, composed of various small and mid-sized companies. The task force meets as needed to examine key issues and work on strategies that will foster more manufacturing jobs and create a positive climate for manufacturing retention and growth.
Napolitano hosts various events throughout the year, informing residents of her District on the impact of federal legislation and policy, and honoring local constituents for their outstanding achievements. Prominent among these events are the annual Congressional Art Competition and Women of the Year recognition ceremonies.
Coverage by Mainstream Media
A 2009 story first reported by Bloomberg News and further detailed by the Los Angeles Times questioned the personal loan interest rate that the Federal Election Commission had authorized her to use during her initial 1998 run for Congress. Both Bloomberg and the Times noted that the FEC had accepted the argument that the eighteen percent rate was equivalent to the early withdrawal penalty that Napolitano was subject to by withdrawing $150,000 from her employee retirement fund and then loaning those funds to her campaign. Both sources also reported the rate dropping to ten percent in 2006, and cited FEC filings as of December 31, 2009 indicating that $221,780 in interest had been paid. The Hill, a Washington DC based newspaper, reported that Federal Election Commission filings for the campaign reporting period ending September 30, 2010 had indicated that the debt had been completed retired. The story was again referenced by CBS News in a 60 Minutes episode in October 2013. This was the first such time that the Congresswoman responded firsthand, where she countered the media's implication that she had personally benefited from the loan, stating “It isn’t like I’ve really profited. I still live in the same house. I drive a small car. I am not a billionaire, or a millionaire, for that matter.”
In January 2011, CNN State of the Union featured Napolitano as part of a bipartisan panel alongside Republican Tim Murphy to discuss adolescent mental illness in the wake of the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that resulted in the deaths of six and wounding of nineteen, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Asked why there wasn't more coverage of the mental health issues outside of this and other gun violence tragedies, Napolitano Napolitano told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "Unfortunately it does not hit the radar scope in Washington or almost in any state house ... It's always something you don't talk about, you don't discuss because of the stigma, and I think we need to address that heavily."
In February, 2011, MSNBC's NewsNation interviewed Napolitano alongside LA Lakers basketball player Ron Artest to discuss her introduction of HR 751, the Mental Health in Schools Act. When asked why she was focusing her attention on mental health issues, she explained her experience with a successful local pilot initiative partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), however noted that securing funding was challenging despite recent violent school tragedies, saying "Children don't vote - and to me that's a crime because our children need help and we need to provide it for them."
Napolitano is married to Frank Napolitano, retired restaurateur and community activist. They have five grown children, fourteen grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. She is not related to former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.