PLACENTIA (CBSLA.com) — A Navy war veteran and lottery winner announced his candidacy Monday in Placentia to run for office in California's 39th Congressional District.
Gil Cisneros, 46, has joined the field of Democratic challengers, who hope to unseat incumbent Republican Ed Royce.
The former Navy lieutenant commander is the son of a public cafeteria worker and a Vietnam War veteran, who suffered from health problems because of his exposure to Agent Orange. Cisneros said he knows firsthand the challenges a family faces when they are unable to afford health insurance.
He vowed to fight President Donald Trump's efforts to strip coverage from millions of Californians, according to his campaign.
Claremont McKenna College Professor of politics Jack Pitney said it's a Congressional district the Democrats have their eyes on for good reason.
"Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016. Republicans have a very slight registration edge, but not enough so that Royce can be absolutely certain of holding it. This could be a real contest," the professor said.
The former Naval officer, who also worked as a shipping and distribution manager at Frito-Lay, won a $266 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot along with his wife, Jacki, in 2010.
Among his many charitable works, the philanthropist and his wife formed the Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation to provide college scholarships for Latino students.
"I am doing this completely because I see a need out there. I see a need for change, Cisneros said. "I don't consider myself a politician."
Pitney said Cisneros is perfectly positioned to be competitive against the other Democratic contenders in the race.
"On the one hand, he can say: I'm an ordinary Joe. I've lived your life. On the other hand, he can say: I have enough money that nobody can buy me. That's a great position to be in," Pitney explained.
According to his campaign, Cisneros received a number of awards when he was a Naval officer, including the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
He has a B.A. in political science from George Washington University, an MBA from Regis University and a M.A. in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.
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