Janet Napolitano

This article is about the American politician. For the alternative rock musician, see Johnette Napolitano.
Janet Napolitano
President of the University of California
Assumed office
September 30, 2013
Preceded by Mark Yudof
3rd United States Secretary of Homeland Security
In office
January 21, 2009  September 6, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy Jane Lute
Rand Beers (acting)
Preceded by Michael Chertoff
Succeeded by Rand Beers (acting)
21st Governor of Arizona
In office
January 6, 2003  January 21, 2009
Preceded by Jane Dee Hull
Succeeded by Jan Brewer
23rd Attorney General of Arizona
In office
January 4, 1999  January 6, 2003
Governor Jane Dee Hull
Preceded by Grant Woods
Succeeded by Terry Goddard
United States Attorney for the District of Arizona
In office
November 19, 1993  November 1, 1997
Preceded by Linda Akers
Succeeded by Jose de Jesus Rivera
Personal details
Born Janet Ann Napolitano
(1957-11-29) November 29, 1957
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Santa Clara University
University of Virginia
Religion Methodism

Janet Ann Napolitano (/nəpɒlˈtæn/;[1] born November 29, 1957) is an American politician, lawyer, and university administrator who served as the 21st Governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009 and United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, under President Barack Obama. She has been president of the University of California system since September 2013, shortly after she resigned as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Prior to her election as governor, she served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1999 to 2003. She was the first woman and the 23rd person to serve in that office. Napolitano is the 1977 Truman Scholar from New Mexico.

She has been the first woman to serve in several offices, including Attorney General of Arizona, Secretary of Homeland Security, and president of the University of California.

Forbes ranked her as the world's ninth most powerful woman in 2012.[2] In 2008, she was cited by The New York Times to be among the women most likely to become the first female President of the United States.[3] Some political commentators suggested that a possible candidacy in the 2016 election.[4][5] She has also been discussed as a contender for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.[6][7][8]

Early life

Janet Napolitano was born on November 29, 1957, in New York City, the daughter of Jane Marie (née Winer) and Leonard Michael Napolitano, who was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.[9] Her father was of Italian descent and her mother had German and Austrian ancestry.[9][10] Napolitano is a Methodist.[11] She is one of three children; she has an older brother and younger sister. She was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque in 1975 and was voted Most Likely to Succeed. She graduated from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, where she won a Truman Scholarship, and was valedictorian. In 1978, she studied for a term at the London School of Economics as part of Santa Clara's exchange programme through IES Abroad. She then received her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school she served as a law clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then joined Schroeder's former firm, Lewis and Roca located in Phoenix.[12]

Early political career

In 1991, while a partner at Lewis and Roca LLP, Napolitano served as an attorney for Anita Hill.[12][13] Anita Hill testified in the U.S. Senate that then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her ten years earlier when she was his subordinate at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[14]

In 1993, Napolitano was appointed by President Bill Clinton as United States Attorney for the District of Arizona.[12] As U.S. Attorney, she was involved in the investigation of Michael Fortier of Kingman, Arizona, in connection with the Oklahoma City bombing. She ran for and won the position of Arizona Attorney General in 1998. During her tenure as attorney general, she focused on consumer protection issues and improving general law enforcement.

While still serving as attorney general, she spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention just three weeks after having a mastectomy. Napolitano recalls that the pain was so unbearable that she couldn't stand up. "Work and family helped me focus on other things while I battled the cancer," says Napolitano. "I am very grateful for all the support I had from family, friends and Arizonans."[15]

Governor of Arizona

Napolitano speaks during the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

She narrowly won the 2002 Arizona gubernatorial election with 46 percent of the vote, succeeding Republican Jane Dee Hull and defeating her Republican opponent, former congressman Matt Salmon, who received 45 percent of the vote. She was Arizona's third female governor and the first woman in the United States to be elected governor to succeed another elected female governor.[16] She was also the first Democrat popularly elected to the governorship since Bruce Babbitt left office in 1987, and the first female governor of Arizona to be elected outright.

She spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention,[17] after some initially considered her to be a possible running mate for presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election but Kerry selected Sen. John Edwards instead. In November 2005, Time magazine named her one of the five best governors in the U.S.[18]

As Governor, Napolitano set records for total number of vetoes issued. In 2005, she set a single session record of 58 vetoes, breaking Jane Dee Hull's 2001 record of 28.[19][20] This was followed in June 2006, less than four years into her term, when she issued her 115th veto and set the all-time record for vetoes by an Arizona governor. The previous record of 114 vetoes was set by Bruce Babbitt during his nine years in office.[20][21] By the time she left office, the governor had issued 180 vetoes.[22]

In November 2006, Napolitano won the gubernatorial election of 2006, defeating the Republican challenger, Len Munsil, by a nearly 2–1 ratio and becoming the first woman to be re-elected to that office. Arizona's constitution provides a two-consecutive-term term limit for its governors,[23] meaning Napolitano would have been barred from seeking a third term in office in 2010.

In January 2006, she won the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. She was a member of the Democratic Governors Association Executive Committee. Furthermore, she has also served previously as Chair of the Western Governors Association, and the National Governors Association. She served as NGA Chair from 2006 to 2007,[24] and was the first female governor and first governor of Arizona to serve in that position.

Secretary of Homeland Security

Napolitano announcing a border security task force.

In February 2006, Napolitano was named by The White House Project as one of "8 in '08", a group of eight female politicians who could possibly run for president in 2008.[25] On January 11, 2008, Napolitano endorsed then Illinois Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president.[26] On November 5, 2008, Napolitano was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[27] On December 1, 2008, Barack Obama introduced Napolitano as his nominee for United States Secretary of Homeland Security.[28][29] On January 20, 2009, Napolitano was confirmed, becoming the first woman appointed Secretary in the relatively new department, and the fourth person to hold the position overall (including one acting secretary). Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer became the governor of Arizona, as the state does not have a lieutenant governor.

Napolitano discussing security at a Super Bowl XLIV press conference. The Super Bowl is designated as a National Special Security Event by Homeland Security.

In March 2009, Napolitano told the German news site Der Spiegel that while she presumes there is always a threat from terrorism: "I referred to 'man-caused' disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."[30] In April 2009, Napolitano, trying to defend her plans to tighten Canada–US border, claimed incorrectly that September 11 attack perpetrators entered the United States from Canada. Her comments provoked an angry response from the Canadian ambassador, media, and public.[31]

In response to criticism, she later said, "Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there." Though there has only been one case, that of Ahmed Ressam an Algerian citizen who was in Canada illegally.[32]

Right-wing extremism memo controversy

Napolitano was the subject of controversy after the release of a Department of Homeland Security threat assessment report that was seen as derogatory towards armed forces veterans. The report focused on potential threats from the radical right.[33] Rightwing [sic] Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment[34] was made public in April 2009. The report suggested several factors, including the election of the first black or mixed race President in the person of Barack Obama, perceived future gun control measures, illegal immigration, the economic downturn beginning in 2008, the abortion controversy, and disgruntled military veterans' possible vulnerability to recruitment efforts by extremist groups as potential risk factors regarding right-wing extremism recruitment.[35]

Napolitano made multiple apologies for any offense veterans groups had taken at the reference to veterans in the assessment, and promised to meet with those groups to discuss the issue.[34] The Department of Homeland Security admitted a "breakdown in an internal process" by ignoring objections by the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to an unnamed portion of the document.[36]

While the American Legion reportedly criticized the assessment, Glen M. Gardner Jr., the national commander of the 2.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, defended it generally, saying it "should have been worded differently" but served a vital purpose. "A government that does not assess internal and external security threats would be negligent of a critical public responsibility", he said in a statement.[33]

"The system worked" controversy

Napolitano was criticized[37] for stating in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley that "the system worked" with regard to an attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approaching Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. She later went on NBC's Today Show with host Matt Lauer and admitted that the security system had indeed failed.[38]

The statement by Napolitano to Crowley that received criticism was as follows:

What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated. So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.[39]

In her interview with Lauer, Napolitano said that her earlier statement was "taken out of context" and maintained "air travel is safe", but admitted, "our system did not work in this instance" and no one "is happy or satisfied with that".[38] Lauer asked her whether the system failed up until the moment the bomber tried to blow up the plane, and Napolitano answered, "It did [fail]."[38]

Secure Communities

Napolitano's official portrait as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Secure Communities is a deportation program managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a subdivision of Homeland Security. Napolitano came under scrutiny for contradicting herself publicly on whether the program is voluntary or mandatory for local jurisdictions to join. On September 7, 2010, Napolitano said in a letter to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren that jurisdictions that wished to withdraw from the program could do so. Yet an October 2010 Washington Post article quoted an anonymous senior ICE official asserting: "Secure Communities is not based on state or local cooperation in federal law enforcement…State and local law enforcement agencies are going to continue to fingerprint people and those fingerprints are forwarded to FBI for criminal checks. ICE will take immigration action appropriately."[40]

At a press conference days later, Napolitano modified her position: "What my letter said was that we would work with them on the implementation in terms of timing and the like…But we do not view this as an opt-in, opt-out program."[41] She did not provide legal justification. Meanwhile, in Arlington, Virginia, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to opt out of SComm.[42] A subordinate DHS employee David Venturella stated at a policy conference: "Have we created some of the confusion out there? Absolutely we have."[43]

Printer bomb attempt

Janet Napolitano has issued a ban for toner & ink cartridges weighing more than one pound on passenger flights, in response to the October 2010 Yemen bomb plot.[44][45] In response to the printer bomb attempt and the "underwear" bomb attempt of 2009, Napolitano has instituted "enhanced pat downs". These pat downs may include the touching of sensitive areas such as breasts and genitals.[46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53]

Walmart–DHS partnership

On December 6, 2010, it was announced that Napolitano was again expanding her reach by creating a "partnership" with Walmart.[54] This is a video message from Napolitano on TV screens in Wal-Mart stores playing a "public service announcement" to ask customers to report suspicious activity to a Wal-Mart manager. The rationale is that national security begins at home. Napolitano "compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists."[55]

Tucson memorial

Napolitano stands next to Mark Kelly, husband of shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords, at the memorial event.

On January 12, 2011, along with President Barack Obama, Napolitano was one of many speakers selected to express sympathies to the community of Tucson, the State of Arizona, and the Nation in a televised memorial for the 2011 Tucson shooting.

Discrimination lawsuit

In July 2012, Napolitano was accused of allowing discrimination against male staffers within the Department of Homeland Security.[56][57] The federal discrimination lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, was filled by James Hayes Jr. who is presently a special agent of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in New York City.[58] The suit alleges that Dora Schriro and Suzanne Barr mistreated male staffers and promotions were given to women who were friends of Napolitano, and when the abuse was reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, that Napolitano launched a series of misconduct investigations against the reporting party, Hayes.[59] The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's spokesperson stated that he would not comment on "unfounded claims".[60]

Suzanne Barr, who was one of Napolitano's first appointments after she became secretary in 2009, went on leave after Hayes filed his lawsuit and then resigned on September 1, 2012. She called the allegations in the lawsuit "unfounded."[61]

Napolitano was sued by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who claims he was pulled from his post interviewing suspicious travelers at JFK Airport after making a series of employment-discrimination complaints.[62] In November 2012, Hayes' attorney in Maryland, Morris Fischer, said the "parties have come to an agreement in principle" to settle the case for $175,000. In addition to the money, "a formal settlement agreement will be executed within the next several days" that will include other conditions, including Hayes keeping his job.[63]

University of California

Napolitano announced she would leave her post as Secretary of Homeland Security at the end of August 2013 to become president of the University of California system.[64][65] She was appointed the 20th president of the University of California by the UC Board of Regents on July 18, 2013, and began her tenure as president on September 30, 2013.[66] President Napolitano has received criticism from the UC student body for making more than the United States President while proposing increases in tuition to compensate for the decrease in state support while providing a raise to 15 of the most highly paid executives at UC.[67] University of California students have also protested "against Napolitano's approval of immigration issues and her lack of experience in education." [68] The proposed tuition hikes, which could be reduced or eliminated if the state provides sufficient revenue, were approved by the Regents of the University of California on November 20, 2014.[69][70]

Napolitano is currentlyat the center of controversy over funding for the Lick Observatory,[71] which is owned and operated by the University of California. Recently, 35 members of California's Democratic congressional delegation urged Napolitano to keep Lick Observatory open, stating that they were "concerned…that perhaps you don't fully appreciate the importance of Lick, or the University of California's ongoing support for the observatory, to our constituents and California."[72]

On March 17, 2015, at a UC regents meeting at which Napolitano was present, 30 students began to protest higher tuition fees. In response to the protest, Napolitano was heard saying to UC regent Chairman Bruce Varner on the UC video stream of the meeting "Let's go, we don't have to listen to this crap".[73]

In August 2015, network monitoring hardware was installed on the UC Berkeley campus network at the behest of Napolitano.[74] Critics fear that this hardware can be used to monitor all network traffic, including academics' emails. Despite internal criticism, the decision to install the hardware was kept secret until January 2016, when a number of professors addressed it in a public letter.[75]

Napolitano campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Phoenix, Arizona on October 30, 2016.

In April 2016, Napolitano placed Linda Katehi, the chancellor of UC Davis, on administrative leave following revelations that the university attempted to suppress web searches relating to the UC Davis pepper-spray incident, as well as charges of nepotism and misuse of student funds.[76]

United States Attorney General speculation

In September 2014, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to step down, Napolitano was speculated as being a potential candidate as the next United States Attorney General.[77] Instead Loretta Lynch was Holder's replacement.[78]

Personal life

Napolitano is an avid basketball fan and regularly plays tennis and softball.[79] Whitewater rafting and hiking are among her hobbies. She has hiked in Arizona's Superstition Mountains, New Mexico's Sandia Mountains, and the Himalayas, and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.[80]

Napolitano has never married or had children; as a result, there has been speculation about her sexual orientation. This included some campaign activity in 2002 when "vote gay" fliers were posted next to her campaign signs. Despite the claims, Napolitano stated on record that she's "just a straight, single workaholic".[81]

Electoral history

Arizona gubernatorial election 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Janet Napolitano 499,284 46.2 +0.9
Republican Matt Salmon 478,935 45.3
Independent Richard Mahoney 84,947 6.9
Libertarian Barry Hess 20,356 1.7
Democratic gain from Republican Swing
Arizona gubernatorial election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Janet Napolitano (incumbent) 959,830 62.6 +16.4
Republican Len Munsil 543,528 35.4
Libertarian Barry Hess 30,268 2.0
Democratic hold Swing

See also


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  19. "With 42, Napolitano is State's Veto Queen". The Arizona Daily Star. May 5, 2005. p. A4.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Janet Napolitano.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Grant Woods
Attorney General of Arizona
Succeeded by
Terry Goddard
Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul Johnson
Democratic nominee for Governor of Arizona
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Terry Goddard
Political offices
Preceded by
Jane Dee Hull
Governor of Arizona
Succeeded by
Jan Brewer
Preceded by
Mike Huckabee
Chairperson of National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Tim Pawlenty
Preceded by
Michael Chertoff
United States Secretary of Homeland Security
Succeeded by
Rand Beers
Academic offices
Preceded by
Mark Yudof
President of the University of California
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