Politics

Out mayor Robert Garcia announces his campaign for Congress

Mayor Robert Garcia
Mayor Robert GarciaPhoto: Long Beach California Mayor's Office

Robert Garcia, the out mayor of Long Beach, California, announced yesterday that he is going to run for a Congressional seat in 2022. He will seek to represent 47th District in the House of Representatives, a seat currently held by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), who is retiring at the end of his term.

If elected, Garcia would be only the second out Latino to serve in Congress, joining Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who is Afro-Latino and won election last year. Garcia would also be the first out immigrant and second out politician to win election to the House after serving as mayor.

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Garcia also becomes the fourth out politician to run for office in 2022 already, Garcia announced his campaign online with a two-and-a-half minute campaign video, focused largely on his late mother’s impact on him.

“My mom brought me to this country when I was 5. She risked everything so that I could succeed,” Garcia said. “Every single kid deserves the same shot that this country has given me.”

In a subsequent tweet, tennis legend Billie Jean King showed her support for Garcia, tweeting that they “would make an excellent leader” in Congress.

In 2009, Garcia became the first LGBTQ person of color elected to the Long Beach City Council and in 2014 he became mayor of the city. In 2018 he married his husband Matt Mendez. That same year, he won reelection with nearly 79 percent of the vote.

He has become recognized for his management of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the Southern California city, saying that he has “never been more damn inspired in my life” by the outpouring of volunteers and giving in Long Beach. In July 2020, he lost both his mother and stepfather to the virus.

In August 2020, he was among rising stars in the Democratic Party that presented part of the Democratic National Convention’s (DNC) keynote address, along with 17 other politicians, such as Pennsylvania Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D), who is now running for the U.S. Senate, and Georgia Rep Sam Park (D), who was the first out gay man elected to the Georgia state legislature.

He was a surrogate for Harris at the convention and openly supported her presidential campaign, before supporting the Biden-Harris ticket last fall. He’s also become known for sharp remarks on Twitter.

Garcia was considered a candidate for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to appoint to the Senate seat vacated when then-Sen. Kamala Harris became Vice President. Newsom selected Secretary of State Alex Padilla in January instead.

Still, Equality California and the LGBTQ Victory Fund quickly endorsed Garcia and praised the work he’s gotten done in Long Beach already.

“Mayor Garcia has shown throughout his nearly 13 years in elected office that he has the skill, tenacity and compassion to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people and the diverse communities to which we belong,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement. “From creating one of the country’s most comprehensive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to establishing transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage in the City of Long Beach, he has been there for our LGBTQ+ community and for all Californians. We need a leader like him in Congress, and we’re prepared to do everything in our power to ensure he is elected in 2022.”

Annise Parker, the CEO of the Victory Fund and the former mayor of Houston, Texas, stated that “Big city mayors make excellent members of Congress because of the scope of their knowledge and experience and their focus on practical governing over excuses and scapegoating.

“Mayor Garcia went to Long Beach to get things done – and he has – including making the city a national role model for its response to the pandemic and vaccine distribution strategy. His competence is only matched by the heart he brings to governing – using his experiences as an LGBTQ immigrant who lost parents to COVID to inform his policymaking and governing,” Parker also said. “Mayor Garcia is the type of leader Washington, DC desperately needs and voters are ready to send him there.”

The primary for the seat will come to a close on June 7, 2022, and then the top two candidates proceed to the general election on November 8, 2022.

Lowenthal has represented the district in Congress since 2013, largely constituting the Long Beach area. Still, redistricting maps have not been finalized and since California’s population slightly decreased, they will lose a Congressional seat.

State Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D) withdrew her campaign and endorsed Garcia for the seat.

Lowenthal’s decision not to run for reelection already makes him the 20th Democratic member of the House to decide not to run. A longtime ally, he first endorsed same-sex marriage in 2013, and he put up a Pride flag in his office so visitors would know “That until there is true equality, I’m going to fly the flag.”

In 2017 a visitor to Lowenthal’s office attempted to vandalize the flag, and then sued him in an attempt to force Lowenthal to take the flag down. Both were unsuccessful.

“It is time to pass the baton. It is time to rest and surround myself with the benefits of a life well lived and earned honorably in the service of my fellow citizens,” Lowenthal said in a statement.

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