2 Garcias headline packed primary for new Southeast LA congressional district that includes Long Beach – Press Telegram

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A slate of mostly Democratic candidates are competing to fill a newly created seat in the United States House of Representatives during the June 7 election.

But this race has two headliners — so you can call this the “battle of the Garcias.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and state Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia are the frontrunners among eight total candidates running to represent the new 42nd Congressional District, which was formed by California’s independent redistricting commission in December.

The newly established District 42 essentially combines the current 40th and 47th congressional districts. Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Boyle Heights, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, represent those areas — but both plan to retire after the current term.

Because of the way the new congressional map combines the current 40th and 47th, both Garcias have strong power bases in the race to represent the 42nd District.

Robert Garcia’s base comes from the portion that is currently part of Lownthal’s district — namely Long Beach, the city where he is immensely popular.

Cristina Garcia, meanwhile, has portrayed herself as a natural successor to Roybal-Allard; much of her district, covering South and East Los Angeles, is in the new district. Much of Cristina Garcia’s Assembly District also overlaps with the 42nd congressional district, including Bell and Downey.

Mayor Garcia and Assemblywoman Garcia have more in common than just a surname and dueling power bases: They are also the same age — 44 — and have been regarded by federal leaders as rising stars in the Democratic Party.

But they aren’t the only ones running for a two-year term in the House of Representatives during the upcoming statewide primary.

Other candidates include Democrats Peter Matthews, a long-time political science teacher at Cypress College; political advocate Joaquin Beltran; political organizer Nicole Lopez; and  Rev. William Moses Summerville, who also serves as a hospice chaplain.

None of those candidates has run a successful election campaign in the past.

Republican John Briscoe — a longtime elected board member of the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, who ran and lost against incumbent Lowenthal for the 47th District in 2020 — is also on the ballot, as is Green Party member Julio Cesar Flores.

Mayor Garcia — who has secured high-profile endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, among many others — has also raised over $820,000 for his campaign since it launched in December 2021.

Briscoe had $250,250 in cash on hand, according to the FEC. But nearly that entire amount — all but $250 — came from personal loans Briscoe gave himself.

Assemblymember Garcia’s campaign, in that same timeframe, has raised just more $215,000.

(Neither Garcia had given themselves personal loans, per FEC finance documents.)

Summerville had about $29,944 on hand, all but $100 coming from individual contributions.

Beltran had about $12,982 on hand, with $5,052 coming from individual contributions rather than personal loans, according to the FEC.

Flores, Lopez and Matthews did not have campaign finance documents available on the Federal Election Commission website.

The campaign financing disparities aren’t the only advantages the Garcias enjoy in this race — particularly vis-a-vis Briscoe.

As the lone Republican, Briscoe may be hoping Mayor Garcia and Assemblywoman Garcia split the vote.

In the California open primary system, the top two finishers head to a runoff in November even if one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. That means two Democrats could run against each other in the general election.

But when Briscoe ran for Congress in 2020, it was in the 47th, which includes parts of more-conservative Orange County.

The new 42nd is entirely in Los Angeles — and overwhelmingly Democratic.

Nearly 55% of the district’s registered voters, in fact, are Democrats, according to the California Secretary of State’s website. Only 16% are registered as Republicans.

Among the major issues facing the 42nd District — and the nation — are housing shortages and increasing homelessness, climate change, further recovering from the pandemic and reforming health care.

The frontrunners

Cristina Garcia — endorsed by local leaders, including the Mayors of Bell, Huntington Park, Downey, Commerce and Vernon — has been out fundraised before, she said.

Assemblywoman Garcia, a native of Bell Gardens and a former mathematics teacher, has campaigned and legislated for gender equity, good government, and social and environmental justice during her 10-year tenure.

She got her start in the Assembly — after a failed bid for Bell City Council — following her efforts to help expose a multiyear scandal in the city. Ultimately, seven Bell officials were convicted of corruption charges.

“We organized a movement,” the assemblywoman said. “We recalled council members, people went to jail, some property taxes were returned — then people started asking me to run for Assembly.”

Her first Assembly campaign, in 2012, was outspent seven to one, she said — but she still won.

“Good government,” has been a tenet of her time in the Assembly, she said. Cristina Garcia has introduced several bills aimed at increasing government transparency, and she said she’ll work to do the same if elected to Congress.

Garcia has taken on the nicknames “Tampon Queen” and “Period Princess,” apparently given to her by fellow lawmakers in the wake of two pieces of legislation — both of which were later passed — to eliminate taxes on menstrual products in California and to provide free products in public schools.

“I have worked to elevate women and girls across the state,” Garcia said, also noting her work on the California Women’s Legislative Caucus, on which she introduced the first ever legislation to criminalize “stealthing” — the act of removing a condom during sex without consent.

But the Assemblywoman has also faced scrutiny while in Sacramento.

Garcia is a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement, but faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment herself. She repeatedly denied the claims, but two investigations were conducted.

Garcia volunteered to go on unpaid leave during the first investigation and easily won reelection that year —  just weeks before the second investigation cleared her of a harassment allegation.

Garcia said she’s concerned about the safety of abortion rights, currently constitutionally protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. A recent leaked draft decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, indicates the court may soon reverse that decision — putting and end to federally protected abortion rights.

“Women do not have equity in society — and that’s in lots of spaces,” Garcia said in an interview, noting a 13-bill reproductive rights package announced as a legislative priority for the Women’s Caucus prior to the Roe leak. “I want to do more in Congress and fight for things like reproductive justice and pass a bill that would enshrine Roe into law, so we don’t have these fights anymore.”

Robert Garcia, meanwhile, has also been outspoken about abortion rights since the leaked decision dropped.

“As a member of Congress, I’ll vote to codify Roe, expand funding for Planned Parenthood and healthcare providers, and support abortion access in all 50 states,” Garcia tweeted on May 3. “I’ll also advocate to eliminate the filibuster and work … to elect representatives that support abortion care.”

Long Beach — LA County’s second-largest city — has been working with Los Angeles County and Planned Parenthood to expand abortion care access in the city, Garcia said at an event with local and state leaders addressing abortion rights on May 6.

“Abortion is health care,” he said at the event. “Access to abortion is critical, in this country and across the world. This court’s reactionary and radical agenda does not stand.”

Mayor Garcia was born in Peru, and immigrated to the United States with his family as a child thanks to a 1980 progressive change in immigration law, his website states.

“I immigrated here with my family,” Garcia said. “We grew up in a very typical immigrant experience —  my mom started off by cleaning houses and working in thrift shops and I was the first one in my family to go to college.”

Garcia taught at Long Beach City College for about 10 years before launching — and winning — a City Council campaign in 2010. He was elected mayor six years later, becoming the city’s first openly gay mayor. He has been hailed as a rising star in the Democratic party ever since.

The mayor has received praise on a national scale for his leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — while grieving the loss of both of his parents to the virus. The New York Times dubbed Long Beach, which has its own health department, a “model for vaccine rollout.”

Long Beach was among the first cities in the state to vaccinate 99% of its students and teachers — and its schools opened sooner than many other parts of the state for that reason.

Both Garcias said addressing environmental injustice throughout District 42 is a key priority — and a challenging one.

“We have issues around climate change that are really important around the port,” Mayor Garcia said in an interview, noting that ensuring access to clean air and water are crucial — especially as smog pollution in the LA-Long Beach metropolitan area was recently named the worst in the nation.

Mayor Garcia supports the Green New Deal — and wants to create environmentally friendly job opportunities to allow a smoother transition away from the use of fossil fuels.

Assemblywoman Garcia, on the other hand, said she is more concerned with meeting the needs of marginalized communities in the district, which are more adversely impacted by climate change and pollution.

“I think we have an opportunity to be leaders on climate change, but with an equity lens,” she said. “I think in Congress, there’s a lot of gridlock — but one thing that’s moving is lots of money.”

Assemblywoman Garcia said she wants to make sure that money gets spent fairly on the communities that need it most.

Both Garcias also agree that housing and homelessness are major issues.

“We have a statewide homelessness crisis that’s tied into accessing services, affordability and mental health services,” Mayor Garcia said. “And the federal government has an important role to play in making sure that there’s enough shelter and housing for people that are experiencing homelessness and that they have the mental health care support that they need.”

Assemblywoman Garcia agreed — but also said she wants to increase local financial transparency to ensure federal dollars meant to address the housing and homelessness crisis statewide are being used properly.

“Maybe, that’s how much we need to solve the problem,” Cristina Garcia said. “But what have you done with the money we’ve already given you?”

The rest of the field

Beyond the Garcias, Briscoe is likely the most well-known candidate, at least in the political field.

He’s run for Huntington Beach City Council and made multiple failed bids to unseat Lowenthal.

Briscoe, a longtime elected trustee on the Ocean View School District board, is the only Republican candidate, who has recently made incendiary remarks on Twitter against Mayor Garcia and Gov. Gavin Newsom, particularly over proposals to codify abortion rights in the U.S. Constitution.

His most-important issue, according to his Twitter account and his website, is the economy, namely inflation.

“Don’t be distracted by other issues,” he tweeted. “If you can’t afford to drive your car or pay Edison, other matters pale. Do not let the other candidates draw your attention from your loss of 10% of pay last year due to inflation. Employees deserve +10%!!”

He is also much further to the right than his fellow competitors on homelessness, immigration and health care, according to his website.

Briscoe supports Congress providing funding to local communities to help place those who are homeless and have addiction issues into 30- or 90-day sober living treatment, his website says. He also supports using “under-the-influence-laws” to allow judges, on a second offense, to sentence folks who are homeless to “long-term treatment in a mental institution or jail as is appropriate,” according to his website.

On immigration, he wants to secure the border, including with fencing, and reform the visa system. And on health care, he supports protecting pre-existing conditions and wants to allow insurance markets to operate across state lines, his website says.

Lopez, Mathews and Summerville, meanwhile, are all progressive Democrats, with the former two publicly pushing back against their party’s establishment leaders, according to their website.

Each supports Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, as do the Garcias.

Lopez, the daughter of immigrants from Mexico, grew up in Southeast Los Angeles and said on her Twitter account that she wants to represent the communities in which she was raised.

Besides backing Medicare for all and the Green New Deal — and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, her website provides few details about her platform, though it does say she supports quality education and supporting small businesses.

Summerville, meanwhile, extensively details his positions on his website, including wanting to implement a minimum wage that increases with inflation and end predatory lending, cancel student debt and increase funding for all levels of education, and provide universal basic income for anyone making less than $85,000.

Summerville serves as the pastor at Kingdom Come Community Church, in Costa Mesa.

Mathews, who has a doctorate in political science from USC, also supports canceling student debt — and provide tuition-free college. He also wants to get “corporate money” out of politics, provide universal childcare, close private prisons, establish a wealth tax and create public banks, according to his website. He has run for Congress multiple times.

Flores, the Green Party candidate, also supports Medicare for all and the Green New Deal. He also wants Congress to do more to house veterans and create publicly owned utilities — to help lower gas prices, according to his website.

Flores, who was born in East LA, also wants to provide an immediate pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, his website says.

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