Former Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is officially the first openly LGBTQ+ immigrant to serve in Congress.
Garcia was sworn into the House of Representatives early Saturday Washington time, four days later than scheduled because Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, was unable to get the necessary number of votes needed to be elected speaker until the 15th ballot early Saturday.
“It’s about time,” the Democrat said. “The American people deserve a government that works for them, and now I can finally go to work for the people of California.”
“As the first LGBTQ+ immigrant to serve in Congress, I am committed to building an inclusive, strong and prosperous community. I will work with my colleagues to protect democracy, make meaningful progress on immigration reform, and improve the infrastructure in our cities to ensure that Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles families can thrive for years to come. to come,” Garcia added.
House rules prohibit swearing in members until a speaker is elected.
Garcia said he ran to represent the 42nd District “because I want every child in our country to have the same opportunity that this country gave me.”
Garcia, who served as mayor of Long Beach from 2014 until Dec. 20, defeated Republican John Briscoe, then a member of the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees, 68.4%-31.6%, in the race to become succeeding Alan Lowenthal, who retired after representing. of the area since 2013.
Part of the district was represented by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, who retired after serving in Congress since 1993.
The district runs north from Long Beach through Lakewood, Belltower and Downey to Huntington Park. It also includes the islands of Santa Catalina and San Clemente.
When Garcia was 5 years old, he moved to the United States with his parents and other relatives from Lima, Peru. In a biography provided by his campaign, Garcia said “My mom brought me to America with no English, no education, and no proper immigration status. We came here on a temporary visa and overstayed.
“But thanks to a progressive change in immigration law passed by Congress in the 1980s, we were able to apply for permanent legal residency. I became a US citizen at 21. It was the happiest day of my life.”
Garcia pledged as a member of the House to support legislation to:
— make the United States a world leader in pandemic prevention and biosafety and biosecurity planning”;
increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25, where it has been since 2009, to $15;
- extending paid family leave;
- change overtime rules;
- creation of public banks;
- provide universal childcare;
- guarantee pre-K education;
- expanding pathways to citizenship for immigrants in the nation without legal permission; and
- expand affordable and accessible housing.
Garcia describes himself as a comic book nerd, educator and “proud progressive American.”
He defended himself against critics that he continued to read comic books at age 45, declaring in a Nov. 14 tweet, “Y’all upset that I still read comics and suggesting I need to do more serious reading.. um .. Anyone who understands comics knows that comics are an essential part of American fiction. And the lessons learned are invaluable.”
Garcia was chosen as president of the brand new class of House Democrats.
His mother, Gaby O’Donnell, died in late July 2020 due to complications from the coronavirus at the age of 61. Her stepfather, Greg O’Donnell, died of complications from COVID-19 on August 9, 2020, at the age of 58. , one day after the family held a memorial service for Garcia’s mother.
Former State Sen. Sydney Kamlager is the other new Los Angeles County House member, succeeding Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass to represent the 37th District.
Kamlager lost to former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, a democrat, 64%-36%, in the district that mainly includes parts of South Los Angeles, as well as Crenshaw and Pico-Robertson, Culver City, Palms and West Los Angeles districts. .
Kamlager said as a member of the House she will focus on:
- extending voting rights;
- reproductive justice;
- health care for all;
- criminal justice reform focused on diversion, redemption, and rehabilitation;
- job creation to create justice and economic opportunity for all communities;
- innovative investment in housing;
- New Green Market and immediate climate action; and
- increased spending on education and the arts.
Kamlager was born in Chicago to interracial parents in 1972. Her first involvement with politics came in 1983 when she worked with her grandmother to help elect Harold Washington as the city’s first Black mayor. She moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, and received a degree in political science.
She also received a master’s degree in arts management and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University.
Kamlager was elected to the state Senate in a special election in March 2021, succeeding Holly Mitchell, who was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Kamlager was Mitchell’s district director before being elected to the Assembly in the 2018 special election.
She was a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees from 2015-18 and was appointed in 2013 to the Los Angeles County Commission on Children and Families.
Kamlager also worked at the Social and Public Arts Resource Center in Venice and for the Ladera Heights-based early childhood care and education organization Crystal Stairs.