Bob Filner (D-CA-51)

Bob Filner California District 51

Bob Filner, Biography from

Biography of Congressman Bob Filner

Congressman Bob Filner represents California’s 51st Congressional District, one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the nation. Congressman Filner’s district encompasses southern San Diego County and all of Imperial County, including the entire California/Mexico border.  He is California’s Border Congressman.

Congressman Filner has been an active member of our community for more than four decades.  He taught history at San Diego State University for more than twenty years.  He was the President of the San Diego Board of Education and served on the San Diego City Council for five years.  In 1991, he served as Deputy Mayor for the City of San Diego.  He was first elected to Congress in 1992, and has been re-elected by wide margins every two years.

In January 2007, Congressman Filner became Chairman of the House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  He has achieved a national reputation for his work on behalf of our nation’s veterans, both current veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and more elderly veterans from the Vietnam and Korean wars and World War II.  He led the fight to restore honor and benefits to the Filipino Veterans and Merchant Mariners of World War II.

During his years in Congress, Congressman Filner has also served on the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  He has fought for federal funding for border infrastructure.  He has been an advocate of improved U.S./Mexico relations, quality education, protection of the environment, and universal health care.

Biography from Bob Filner for Congress

Bob Filner’s adult political career began when he was 18 years old during the Civil Rights Movement. He spent several weeks in the Mississippi State Penitentiary as a Freedom Rider. “My political optimism stems from those times. I believe by our individual involvement, we can change history! And, my commitment to a world free of racism and discrimination continues today.”

Just after receiving a Ph.D. in the history of science from Cornell University, he moved to San Diego and began a 20 year long teaching career at San Diego State University. Always the activist, he challenged his college students that their “grand” thoughts were futile unless they put them into action in order to help people and make the world a better place. And it’s a lesson he continues to impress on others while in the United States Congress.

Summary of Significant Events

  • 1942 – Born in Pittsburgh, PA
  • 1961 – Arrested and jailed in Mississippi as a Freedom Rider
  • 1963 – Received B.S. degree in chemistry from Cornell University
  • 1969 – Received Ph.D. in history of science from Cornell University
  • 1970 – Moved to San Diego area
  • 1979 – Elected to the San Diego School Board
  • 1982 – Selected to be School Board President
  • 1987 – Elected to San Diego City Council
  • 1991 – Selected to be Deputy Mayor of San Diego
  • 1992 – Elected to the United States House of Representative
  • 2007 – Appointed Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Running for Public Office!

In the late 1970s Filner was frustrated with the local school board after announcing that his children’s school was going to close (daughter, Erin and son, Adam). He felt his children weren’t getting the education and attention they deserved. This led to his first run for San Diego School Board Member in 1979.

Filner’s “back to basics” approach toward education – including mandatory homework – won wide support among parents all across San Diego. During his time the board hired a more responsive Superintendent, test scores went up, and millions of dollars in bureaucratic waste was eliminated.

Therefore it was no surprise that under his leadership on these issues he was selected as School Board President in 1982.

This increasing civic involvement led to his election to the San Diego City Council in 1987 where he began taking on issues such as bringing good jobs to San Diego and broadening its economic base. He created the city’s first Economic Conversion Committee and wrote the city’s Economic Conversion Plan. He found creative ways to fight neighborhood crime, including the introduction of Police Walking Patrols and a Citizen Graffiti Patrol with the area’s first 24-hour graffiti hotline.

Recognizing his ability to work with his colleagues, the council members selected him as Deputy Mayor in 1991.

Fighting for us in Washington!

In 1992, Filner was elected to the United States House of Representatives. In his first term in Congress, he was one of only a handful of freshman legislators to get legislation passed – for example a critical law amending the Clean Water Act, allowing San Diego to save billions of dollars.

Almost immediately upon his arrival in Washington, his request for an appointment to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee was granted. And in 2006 was elected by his Democratic colleagues as Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Since January 2007, Congress has increased the Veterans Healthcare budget by 60% – the largest increase since the VA was created 79 years ago. Other victories include VA Home loans increased by 50%; the G.I. Bill was reinstated to meet the same level of education benefits, adjusted for cost-of-living increases, as that offered by the original World War II-era bill; benefits for Filipino-American veterans granted and legislation is pending for Merchant Marine veterans of World War II benefits. Filner says, “This is the least we can do for our men and women in uniform who have sacrificed so much for us – we owe it to them!”

The 51st District – stretching the whole California/Mexico border, from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona – is one of the most diverse regions in the nation! It encompasses the southern portion of the City of San Diego, the South Bay cities of Chula Vista and National City, and all of Imperial Valley. The district’s population is approximately 55% Latinos, 15% African-Americans, 15% Anglos and 15% Filipinos.

For 9 terms now, he has worked hard to both enhance his district’s advantages while meeting its challenges. For example since many families in his district, and across the nation, suffer from sub-standard medical treatment, he has worked to provide affordable healthcare for border communities and all Americans.

While always looking for ways to embrace the opportunities the region provides, he does not back down from challenges specific to border communities.

His work on U.S.-Mexico relations led President Clinton to ask Filner to join him on an international mission to meet with former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. Again in 2004, with President Vicente Fox, he stepped forward to encourage increased cooperation and collaboration between the two nations. He took the lead in securing critical funding and support for the International Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Tijuana River Valley, as well as the New River in the Imperial Valley with the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.

He serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as the Senior Democratic Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, a member of the Highway and Transit, Water Resources and Environment, and Aviation subcommittees. As Congressmen, he has brought home billions of dollars to improve roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. At the same time he is constantly looking to the future in support of high-speed rail projects that would link San Diego with other areas of the state and Arizona and he secured funding to study suitable locations in Imperial Valley for the site of a new regional airport. Although these forward looking projects have been in the works for a long time, how appropriate they’re labeled the “Jobs Train.” Not only would San Diego become a major national distribution hub, thousands of jobs in San Diego and Imperial Valley would be created!

Congressman Filner has built his career by “walking his own talk” – “Grand thoughts are futile unless they are put into action in order to help people and make the world a better place.” Help him to continue this work for a better California – and a better America! He cannot go it alone!

Do you know where you still on the political spectrum? See “Political Beliefs, Where Are You” to find out where you stand.

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