Roybal-Allard retirement creates political jockeying

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The retirement of U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard from Congress after 30 years has triggered political jockeying among area officials eager to seek higher offices in the Southeast Los Angeles County area.

Redistricting completed last month by the state Redistricting Commission moved much of Roybal-Allard’s 40th Congressional District into the new 42nd District, representing Bell, Bell Gardens, Downey, Cudahy, Paramount, Vernon, Commerce, portions of East Los Angeles and adding Long Beach to the mix.

The realignment makes Latinos the majority of voters in the new congressional district. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, who represents the old 58th Assembly District in Sacramento, has announced she will run for Roybal-Allard’s old seat, pitting her against Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

Roybal-Allard was the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to Congress, and the first Latina to serve on the House Appropriations Committee and to chair the Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Serving my constituents in Congress has been the single most distinguished honor of my life,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement announcing her retirement. “Over my many years of public service, I have always strived to do that, which is best to help improve my community and my country.”

Assemblywoman Garcia announced her candidacy for Congress on Twitter, planning to run on a platform seeking equity for local communities battered with higher caseloads of COVID-19 compared to wealthier enclaves.

“It’s time for our communities, who have so often been ignored and neglected, to take our place at the table,” said said in a press release that included the endorsement of 27 elected city officials from the district.

The former math teacher is no stranger to controversy. She survived accusations of sexual harassment levied by the staffer of another lawmaker and was investigated in 2018 for using coarse language against gays and Asians, costing her to be dismissed from several legislative committees.

Garcia won reelection in 2018 and again in 2020. She was first elected to her current post in 2012.

Downey Mayor Blanca Pacheco endorsed Cristina Garcia’s congressional campaign and then announced she would run for Garcia’s Assembly seat, which is now the 64th Assembly District.

“The most important thing to know about Cristina Garcia is that she always, always puts the interest of the communities she represents above all else,” Pacheco said.

“California is at a significant crossroads,” Pacheco added. “After two years of this pandemic, it’s clear that we need leaders in the state legislature who have a deep understanding of the many challenges that people across the newly drawn 64th District grapple with on a daily basis,” Pacheco said.

The Downey City Council member pledged to be an advocate for residents, stand for working people, create good paying middle class jobs, increase spending in public education, expand affordable housing, “urgently address the climate crisis,” and make health care accessible and affordable.

Pacheco was the first Latina to be elected to Downey’s City Council in 2016, and in 2020 she became the first Latina to be sworn in as mayor.

Cristina Garcia thanked Roybal-Allard for being a pioneer of Latino political empowerment and for her help bringing vital resources to Southeast Los Angeles County.

Robert Garcia has served as mayor of Long Beach since 2014 after serving on the City Council for five years.

He was originally a Republican, serving as the California youth coordinator for George W. Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign. He switched parties in 2007.

He has received accolades for reigniting investment in Long Beach, and for the handling of the pandemic and has received early endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla.

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

Filing for the June primary election formally begins Feb. 14 and ends March 11.