LONG BEACH – In a tweet early Friday morning, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced he would run for the Congressional seat currently held by Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA47), who yesterday announced he was withdrawing from Congress.
Hi everyone, I am running for Congress.
My mother brought me to this country when I was 5 years old. She risked everything so that I could succeed. Every child deserves the same blow this country gave me.
Join us on https://t.co/PUa51FJ5gT pic.twitter.com/fd8vZPvl9o
– Robert Garcia (@RobertGarcia) December 17, 2021
Garcia celebrated his 44th birthday on December 2 and is an openly gay Latino from Peru. First elected to city council in April 2009 with great fanfare as the youngest on the council, the first Latino man and the first gay of color. He became Long Beach’s first gay mayor in 2014 with 52.1% of the vote.
If elected to take the seat in the United States House, Garcia would be the first openly LGBTQ + immigrant and second openly LGBTQ + Latino elected to Congress – and the first LGBTQ + Latino elected to Congress from California. Currently, the chairman of the Congressional LGBTQ + Equality Caucus and representative of the United States, David Cicilline (D-RI), is the only former LGBTQ mayor ever elected to the United States Congress. United States Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is the only LGBTQ Latinx person ever elected to the body.
The mayor gained immediate support from Equality California, the largest national LGBTQ + civil rights organization;
“Mayor Garcia has shown throughout his nearly 13 years in office that he has the skills, tenacity and compassion to improve the lives of LGBTQ + people and the diverse communities to which we belong,” said Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. “From creating one of the country’s most comprehensive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to establishing inclusive health care coverage for transgender people in the city of Long Beach, he has been there to our LGBTQ + community and for all Californians. We need a leader like him in Congress, and we are prepared to do everything in our power to get him elected in 2022. ”
As it enters the race, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is still finalizing the district lines, the near final lines of the Commission Congress would make the district predominantly Latino and would include Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Bellflower. , Downey, Bell Gardens, Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park.
The Washington DC-based LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, also supported Mayor Garcia when he announced his candidacy;
“Mayors of large cities are excellent members of Congress because of their breadth of knowledge and experience and their focus on practical governance rather than apologies and scapegoats,” said Mayor Annise. Parker, President and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Mayor Garcia went to Long Beach to get things done – and he did – including making the city a national model for its pandemic response and vaccine distribution strategy. His competence is matched only by the heart he brings to governance – using his experiences as an LGBTQ immigrant who has lost parents to COVID to inform his policy making and governance. Mayor Garcia is the type of leader Washington, DC desperately needs and voters are ready to send him there.
Garcia has close ties to the leadership of the Democratic Party. During the 2020 election campaign, he was a prominent presidential campaign surrogate for Vice President Kamala Harris, later becoming a staunch supporter of President Joe Biden. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the mayor acted in concert with the measures of California Governor Gavin Newsom, including masking warrants and pushing to get Californians vaccinated.
The effects of the pandemic painfully affected Garcia directly when in the summer of 2020, he lost his mother, Gaby O’Donnell, and his stepfather, Greg O’Donnell, to COVID. Her mother was a medical assistant who immigrated from Peru when the mayor was five.
In an interview with reporter Karen Ocamb at the height of the pandemic, Garica, when asked if steps are being taken to reach out to the vulnerable and significant LGBTQ population in Long Beach, responded by saying;
“I have had communications with our center as well as with some LGBTQ leaders in the community about this,” Garcia said. “I think everyone is working together, making sure people have the resources they need. I have also spoken to the leaders of our hospitals. They know Long Beach has a higher rate of HIV than other parts of the state, largely because of our LGBTQ population and it’s similar in other places in the state that have larger populations. important. This is something we take very seriously.
“We’re trying to get resources for people and my advice to someone who is LGBTQ is the same as it would be to anyone – namely, if you can stay home and if you need to. help, call a doctor, call your doctor, get consider our health service and we’ll try to help you, ”Garcia added.
As the Decoupage Commission wraps up its work, a potential main political rival, California State Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) endorsed the mayor and withdrew from the debate even as she other lawmakers in the state of Latina had publicly urged her to run for the seat.
Despite the mayor’s ties to the current Democratic Party leadership, the mayor was once a Republican. In another interview with Ocamb, Garcia noted;
“My whole family signed up as a Republican when we became citizens. We did it because we loved Ronald Reagan. At the time, he had signed the amnesty bill. So, we didn’t know much about politics, but we loved the president because he signed this bill, giving us the opportunity to become American citizens.
“Today, it is ironic that it is a Republican president who has signed the most complete path to citizenship that we have had in this last generation. And a president idolized by the Republican Party has also done more for immigrants than any president recently. I think the Republican Party needs to take a page from Ronald Reagan’s manual and work with the Democrats on a comprehensive immigration program that will create citizenship for the millions of people who are here, ”he said.
The mayor’s previous political affiliation with the GOP brought a sharp response from the Monterey County Supervisor, former member of the State Assembly and former mayor of the town of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, Luis Alejo.
And this story, Mr. Mayor ??? Many of us fought and organized against Prop. 187 as young people, while some supported it and joined the GOP after it was passed. I’m just saying… https: //t.co/P5dEYGUkf0 pic.twitter.com/LV87d0xeHD
– Luis Alejo⚖️ (@SupervisorAlejo) December 17, 2021
Responding to Garcia’s tweet announcing his candidacy on Friday, in a response, Alejo tweeted an Orange County Register article dated May 29, 2014 describing the Long Beach mayoral race which read in part:
“Garcia was a member of the Republican Party at a time still regularly attacked by Democrats. He joined the GOP shortly after voters approved Proposition 187, a 1994 voting measure championed by the government of the day. Pete Wilson. The law created a filtering system to deny certain services, including health care and education, to illegal immigrants and was ultimately declared unconstitutional by a federal court.The Register reported.
The Register also noted;
“A November 2000 article in The Daily Bruin, the UCLA student newspaper, reported that Garcia, then a Cal State Long Beach student, was the California Youth Coalition Coordinator for the Bush Campaign, a position he got it after entering Republican offices and writing to the national campaign headquarters. When asked about the information in the article on Wednesday, Garcia backtracked later Wednesday and said he was offered a two-month volunteer position in the Bush campaign, but he did not. much for them..
He stayed in the party because he championed other causes that he said he now opposes. There have been the repeated efforts against same-sex marriage, the repeated efforts against abortion, and the repeated efforts to identify voters. He also founded the Long Beach Young Republicans and worked on Republican Frank Colonna’s campaign for mayor.. “
Despite this early political background, a source told Blade Friday that Garcia is an outright champion of the politics of progress, particularly engaged in issues related to the LGBTQ + community. “There will always be detractors but I think Robert has shown that he is committed – besides he was young, he has evolved and will represent the interests of his two main constituencies well, [LGBTQ+ and Latino communities]The source said.
The primary elections will take place on June 7, 2022 and the first two will qualify for the general elections on November 8, 2022.
Garcia, who was re-elected mayor in 2018 with nearly 80 percent of the vote, holds a doctorate in education from California State University at Long Beach, a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a baccalaureate also from CSU-Long Plage. He lives in Long Beach with his husband, Matthew Mendez Garcia, who teaches political science at CSU-Long Beach.