U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta at podium
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, whose district includes a large portion of Santa Cruz County.
(Congressional website)

‘We cannot let this slow us down,’ Rep. Panetta says as he shelters in D.C. office after attack

A U.S. Navy Reserve veteran, Congressman Jimmy Panetta tells Lookout that only his tour in Afghanistan compares to the chaos he saw unfold around him in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.

Sheltering in place in his D.C. office Wednesday, Rep. Jimmy Panetta called on his colleagues in congress to “come together and go forward” in the face of the violence and disruption at the Capitol, and to continue certifying the results of the election.

“I do believe that’s exactly what we need to do now, and it starts with us in the House of Representatives continuing to do our jobs,” Panetta told Lookout Wednesday afternoon. “It’s exactly why I’m standing in my office, it’s exactly why we need to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and certify this electoral process so we can remove this president in a proper and peaceful way on Jan. 20.

“I cannot stress that enough. We cannot let this slow us down.”

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Panetta represents California’s 20th Congressional District, which includes much of Santa Cruz County, and all of Monterey and San Benito counties.

He was not on the floor of the House of Representatives when the Capitol was stormed by a frenzied mob Wednesday, because the results of the presidential election are not being challenged or objected to in California.

Instead, Panetta said he was taking a call related to pandemic response when he heard banging his office door around 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

“I actually thought it was one of my colleagues playing a prank, but it turned out to be the Capitol Police asking us to evacuate right away,” he said. Panetta said he directed his staff to evacuate but stayed behind to finish the call.

“From that point on, I’ve been in my office answering phones and talking to people who have reached out,” he said.

A U.S. Navy Reserve veteran, Panetta said only his tour in Afghanistan compared to the chaos he saw unfold around him in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.

Capitol security, he said, will need to be carefully reviewed when the dust settles.

“I am very disappointed that this was allowed to happen, and I do believe there needs to be a serious after-action report as to why this happened,” Panetta said. “Because I do believe the information was there, I believe the intelligence was there — clearly, the emotions were there — and they should have known the violence was going to be here, unfortunately. Obviously more should have been done, and we will hopefully learn our lesson from this.”

A former Monterey County prosecutor and the son of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Jimmy Panetta was first elected to the Central Coast congressional seat in 2016. He was re-elected to a third term in November.

He harshly criticized the conduct of President Donald Trump, who continued to question the validity of the election results.

“This president is incapable of doing the right thing when it comes to leadership,” Panetta said. “We’ve seen that throughout his time in the White House. He fails to rise to the occasion, he does not say the right thing — he does not do anything. Why? Because this president does not know what it means to serve people. He does not know what it means to put on the uniform and serve this country. He is anything but that, because all he knows how to do is serve himself. And that’s why we need to get back to doing our job to make sure that we remove this president in a proper and peaceful way by certifying the electoral votes.”