California Assemblywoman launches congressional run, setting up contested primary

California State Assembly member Cristina Garcia
Associated Press

California State Assembly Member Cristina García on Thursday launched her congressional campaign, hoping to represent a new district that merges the districts of retiring Democratic Reps. Alan Lowenthal and Lucille Roybal-Allard.

García’s announcement comes a week after Long Beach Mayor Robert García jumped into the race, days before Roybal-Allard announced her retirement.

Cristina García will run to the left of the Long Beach mayor, a former Republican who’s been criticized for his support of GOP policies in the 1990s.

Robert García’s critics say his GOP membership implies support of the state party’s hawkish immigration policies at the time; the Long Beach mayor has said he became a Republican because of former President Reagan’s 1986 amnesty bill.

Robert García on Thursday was endorsed by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who’s led the push for immigration reform in the Senate.

“I am proud to have never been a candidate that covets the endorsement of the political elite. I am more interested in holding them accountable to the people. But I am honored to have earned the trust of so many of my fellow local elected officials. It’s proof to me that I’m doing my job right,” said Cristina García.

The two Garcías will run against each other in California’s new 42nd Congressional District, which spans from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach.

The new district’s shape will pit the traditional power base of Mexican American politics in the state — represented by Roybal-Allard and her father, former Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Calif.) for around six decades — against the up-and-coming, pro-business constituencies of Long Beach.

García announced her candidacy with 27 endorsements from southeast Los Angeles County elected officials, leaning into the Roybal dynasty’s constituency.

“I am proud to have the support of so many elected officials, but I can’t move forward in this campaign without first recognizing the incredible career of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard. A pioneer in Latino political empowerment, she has helped bring vital resources to [Southeast Los Angeles] and she is a consensus builder who has served with dignity,” said Rep. García.

The hat tip to Roybal-Allard is meant to expose a rift between Robert García and the outgoing congresswoman, whose orbit was rankled by the timing of the mayor’s jump into the race, even before Roybal-Allard had announced her retirement.

Because of California’s jungle primary system, the two Garcías will likely spend nearly a year competing against each other before finally facing off in the general election next November.

Both are likely to call on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus campaign arm, Bold PAC, for an endorsement and funding in a year when fundraising has proven difficult for Democrats.

Robert García has a strong following in the state’s LGBT community, and as mayor of Long Beach, he has attracted investments to the city and has been praised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, California Democrats, particularly Hispanic Democrats, are wary of his turn from the GOP to the Democratic Party, especially as he was an active Republican during the era of Proposition 187, a hawkish immigration law that’s widely unpopular among Hispanics.

Cristina García, the leader of the California Assembly Women’s Caucus, is a progressive who’s been an outspoken advocate against corruption, most notably in the City of Bell corruption scandal.

But she has also been targeted with accusations of sexual misconduct and creating a hostile work environment, as well as using disparaging language against gays and Asians, for which she was removed from Assembly committees in 2018. She was cleared of wrongdoing in the sexual misconduct allegations, and reinstated to committee work in 2019, including as chair of an important budget subcommittee.

Updated Friday at 2:04 p.m.

Tags Alan Lowenthal Alex Padilla California Lucille Roybal-Allard primary race

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