Robert Garcia, the Democratic mayor of Long Beach, California, is heading to Washington, D.C., as the first LGBTQ immigrant to serve in U.S. Congress.
Garcia defeated Republican challenger John Briscoe on Tuesday for California’s 42nd Congressional district, NBC News reports.
Born in Peru, his mother immigrated with him to the United States when he was 5 years old. According to his campaign website, Garcia’s proudest moment is becoming a U.S. citizen and the reason he went into public service.
Garcia’s married to California State University, Long Beach, professor Matthew Mendez Garcia — making him not only the latest Hispanic immigrant to serve in the U.S. Capitol but also the first to do so as a member of the LGBTQ community.
“Hispanics are a community that loves our families, and that includes trans and LGBTQ people, but we must understand that if the Republicans win more seats in Congress, they will have more power to take away rights from women and gay people,” Garcia said in an interview with Telemundo. “And that is not what we want for this great country that must always go forward.”
As mayor of Long Beach, Garcia became better known in the national political circuit during the coronavirus pandemic. He took a strong stance in responding to the outbreak, particularly by encouraging vaccination among his constituents.
The COVID-19 pandemic directly affected Garcia, however. His mother, a frontline health care worker, and his stepfather both died because of the virus.
“Losing my mom and my stepdad both to COVID has been awful,” Garcia told NBC Los Angeles in an interview in 2021. “I think for me it just became so much more serious and personal, I did not want anyone else in our community to go through what I went through.”
The mayor of Long Beach Robert Garcia lost his mom and stepdad to COVID. Conan Nolan reports March 19, 2021.