Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia running for Congress, but is he qualified?

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia Congress

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia checks his watch during a COVID-19 press conference, Oct. 30 2020. Photo: Screenshot.

Robert Garcia, mayor of Long Beach, finally announced his plan to leave the city.

On Friday, Garcia, 44, the city’s first openly gay mayor, tweeted that he is a candidate for Congress.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long), who has served four terms representing the 47th District, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of his term next year.

The next day, Robert Garcia made his announcement and shared his campaign website, which doesn’t list any platform, but does ask people to give money to his campaign. He even posted a video about his decision to run, which indicates he has considered leaving the city for a while.

Mayor Robert Garcia failed LGBTQ community on COVID-19

The primary election will be held June 7 and the two top finishers will advance to the general election Nov. 8.

Although the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is still finalizing district lines, the Commission’s congressional lines would make the district majority Latino and include Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Bellflower, Downey, Bell Gardens, Bell, Maywood, and Huntington Park.

Robert Garcia made history in 2014 when he was elected as Long Beach’s first openly LGBTQ  mayor, first Latino mayor, and youngest mayor in the city’s history. The mayor in Long Beach is largely a ceremonial position, a cheerleader for the city. According to the city charter, most of the authority rests with the city manager.

He was elected to the city council in 2009 in a special election, and re-elected in 2010 and 2012.

Robert Garcia would be the first openly LGBTQ immigrant and the second openly LGBTQ Latino elected to Congress — and the first LGBTQ Latino elected to Congress from California. Ritchie Torres is the first Latino member of Congress who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

But these labels, while important for representation, don’t address the whole story.

Garcia’s sudden announcement confirms what many people have said.

For more than a year, City Hall officials and City Council members have said privately that Garcia has had his eyes on a bigger office outside the Long Beach.

Behind the scenes, Garcia told insiders in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and anywhere in between, that he wanted another job. Garcia has walked out of city council meetings early to attend other non-Long Beach political events.

Apart from disappearing from council meetings, his no-show has been noticed in other areas.

In October 2019, Garcia was called out for his lack of empathy following a shooting that killed three people in Rose Park. 

Garcia even changed his Twitter handle from RobertGarciaLB to RobertGarcia.

At the same time, many local activists and even City Hall officials have privately questioned if he’s qualified to serve in Congress.

Also, here is some coverage to consider.

Forthe, a Long Beach-based investigative journalism publication, has reported extensively on Garcia, including his cozy relationship with the police union.

After Garcia said he had entered the congressional race, Kevin Flores, an editor with Forthe, tweeted some context, particularly in response to the video Garcia released with his announcement.

“Garcia really plays up his immigrant background in this video. But when I exposed the LBPD’s unlawful sharing of license plate data with Trump’s ICE last year, he had a big chance to stand up for Long Beach immigrants. Instead he said nothing,” Flores tweeted.

“Publicly pushing back against the LBPD’s practice of sharing this data with law enforcement agencies across the county would have meant going against one of his biggest political donors, the police union.

“It wasn’t until six months later, after the ACLU sent a demand letter to Long Beach that the LBPD finally clamped down on its data promiscuity.”

In that same video, Garcia also likes to play up the city as a model for its response to COVID-19.

What Garcia doesn’t mention is how the LGBTQ community was ignored —and still is ignored — during the pandemic.

Garcia had a huge opportunity to help the LGBTQ community as people were dying, instead he did nothing.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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