WASHINGTON — Two weeks after Democratic Rep. Susan Davis announced her retirement, five candidates have announced a congressional bid for the California congressional seat. Janessa Goldbeck, a military veteran who identifies as queer, is the sixth.
Goldbeck, 34, is a first-time candidate and announced her candidacy officially Wednesday, she told BuzzFeed News. She plans to run a campaign focused on infrastructure, affordable housing, addressing the rising cost of living, and the wage gap. And she’s interested in gun control, pitching herself as a pro–Second Amendment Democrat, but also arguing that the average American should not have access to some of the weapons she used in the military.
“I’m a gun owner. I support the Second Amendment and I know that guns are critical tools of our military,” Goldbeck said in an interview Wednesday. “I carried an M16 and an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in training, but I don’t believe they belong in the homes of the civilians.”
Goldbeck said she supports gun buyback programs for some military-style weapons and, like nearly 90% of Americans in recent polling, also supports universal background checks for gun sales.
“If you want to fire a military-grade weapon, join the Marines,” Goldbeck said. “We’re always looking for a few good people.”
Goldbeck formally announced her campaign in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, saying, "I believe that even the toughest challenges can be overcome with grit, imagination, and a willingness to work together." Her campaign also formally filed with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday.
California’s 53rd is considered a safe Democratic district. Davis was the first lawmaker to represent the San Diego–based district, which was created in 2003 after redistricting, and houses the largest concentration of military personnel in the US.
“In San Diego, we have beautiful natural resources, we have diversity, cultures, languages, and ideas, but there are also a lot of people in San Diego who are struggling to keep up with the cost of housing, to access affordable health care, and to pay for their prescription drugs,” said Goldbeck, who now takes care of a parent who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Goldbeck was born in Encinitas, California, just north of San Diego, and moved into the district last year where she bought her first home.
“There’s a lot of concern about the safety of our neighborhood and our schools,” Goldbeck told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “When I talk to people in my neighborhood, there’s a lot of outrage on the way people are being treated at our border.”
Goldbeck spent nearly seven years in the Marines and left active service as a captain just six weeks ago.
After graduating from Northwestern University, Goldbeck worked as a human rights activist lobbying Congress to end the genocide in Darfur. As a Marine, Goldbeck participated in a government study that allowed women to volunteer for combat courses in the military. The study would lead to women’s integration in military combat and the repeal of the Combat Exclusion Policy, opening up all military jobs to women.
Goldbeck has never run for political office before. “My passion and my experience have all been at the federal level,” Goldbeck said. “The first thing that came to my head was, ‘Why not?’”
Currently, seven women veterans serve in Congress — Joni Ernst, Martha McSally, and Tammy Duckworth sit in the Senate, while first-year Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Chrissy Houlahan, and Elaine Luria were elected in 2018 and join Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who is currently running for president) as the four veteran women in the House.
This story was updated with Goldbeck's official campaign announcement.