Although conservatives are commendably reluctant to embrace identity politics, it can’t be denied that Marilinda Garcia, 31, GOP candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for New Hampshire’s 2nd district, handily breaks certain perceived Republican stereotypes.
Nobody would mistake New Hampshire state Rep. Garcia, who doesn’t look old enough to have a driver’s license, and is the daughter of an Italian immigrant mother and father with Hispanic heritage from New Mexico, for an older white male. This clearly bugs New Hampshire Democrats.
Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette was amused that about a nanosecond after Garcia declared that she would run for Congress, New Hampshire state Democratic Rep. Peter Sullivan tweeted that Garcia is a “lightweight” in “stiletto heels.” Gilding the lily, Mr. Sullivan compared Ms. Garcia to ditzy reality star Kim Kardashian. “I don’t see the resemblance,” wrote Navarrette. “But I do smell fear.”
Garcia’s liberal detractors also, according to Navarrette, demanded to see her academic transcripts, as if they could not believe the petite Garcia was really a cum laude graduate of Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music. She also went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government. “They saw me as an affirmative action student,” Garcia told Navarrette. “They said, ’How do we know you were qualified?’”
“This wasn’t just about the usual pushback that someone named ‘Garcia’ or ‘Rodriguez’ or ‘Hernandez’ experiences when they attend elite schools. This is about how Hispanic Republicans wind up with targets on their backs,” wrote Navarrette. It signals how any “diversity” in the Republican field is a threat to Democrats, who have come to believe that they “own” Hispanic, African American, and women voters. As Rep. Steve Scalise noted at a recent Republican Study Committee-sponsored panel discussion on women moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, the Democrats pull out the stops and spend overwhelmingly to defeat a female Republican candidate.
Garcia shared the stage with IWF’s Sabrina Schaeffer and other prominent conservative women at a CPAC panel on why conservatism is right for women. It was moderated by Tammy Bruce. While conservatism may bring the right policies for women, the panelists had to agree with Crystal Wright when she argued that Republican women candidates are “attacked more viciously than male candidates.” Marilinda is prepared for the challenge.
Garcia, who was first elected to the state House in 2006, at the age of 23, represents New Hampshire’s eighth district and would challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, who was elected to Congress in 2012. Garcia faces former state Sen. Gary Lambert, a patent lawyer and former Marine Corps prosecutor, in the September 9 Republican primary.
Garcia’s entry into elective politics was almost accidental. A harpist who has toured Europe and Latin America with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Senior Orchestra—if elected she might well be the only Member of Congress who has appeared on the stage with Placido Domingo—Garcia was teaching music at Phillips Exeter Academy, the famous New England prep school, and working as a court-appointed special advocate for people who had been abused. She was looking around for some volunteer work on behalf of Republican causes. “Why don’t you run instead of volunteer?” somebody asked. It made sense.
“I thought that would be a good way to make sure that my candidate represented my views, so I ran and I ended up winning,” she said laughing. Garcia has just finished her fourth term, though she has not been continuously in office, losing a race for re-election in 2008 but returning to the House the next year.
She has attracted national notice, though. The Republican National Committee last year designated Garcia a Rising Star in a program of that name designed to encourage young conservatives (also on that year’s Rising Star roster was Karin Agness, president of the Network of Enlightened Women and an IWF senior fellow). Garcia was invited to serve on the board of Americans by Choice, which supports immigration reform. “As a country,” she said, “we’ve made it too easy for people to get in illegally, and too hard for other people to stay legally.”
In the New Hampshire House, Garcia quickly established a reputation as a champion of economic liberty and a foe of burdensome federal regulations. She had seen first-hand the effects of regulations on entrepreneurship when her father, an electrical engineer, launched a business with two colleagues in the wake of September 11. She also meets frequently with business people and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“A lot of times capital that could be better used gets re-routed when the federal government makes changes that are arbitrary or all of a sudden swoops in with a costly investigation on this or that and then comes up with fines, when all the entrepreneurs are trying to do is run their companies, provide a product that is great, and keep their employees working in a great work environment,” she said. “Who cares more than the owners about making their businesses run properly? I have developed a taste for the way government comes in from nowhere and thinks it knows more than the people who are actually involved in the businesses.”
She loves to find ways to reduce red tape and increase personal responsibility. To force public officials to take responsibility, Garcia sponsored a bill to reduce the number of commissioners on the New Hampshire Liquor Commission from three to one. “We found that with three commissioners, there was a diffusion of responsibility and accountability,” she said. “When something went wrong, a commissioner could say ‘It was his fault. It was his fault.’ We decided that a three-member board was not a good structure.” Now there’s a novel idea: holding public officials responsible.
Her mother is a teacher and her father, who grew up partly in foster care, attended MIT on a scholarship. The family was living in Boston but moved to New Hampshire when Garcia was a child because the state was more hospitable to homeschooling. Garcia also attended public school. Clearly the parents did something right: Her brother is a Harvard Medical School-educated Air Force doctor and her sister Bianca is a product of the New England Conservatory of Music and won Fulbright Scholarship. Marilinda lives in Salem, New Hampshire and is engaged to be married.
Garcia has an amazing list of accomplishments for such a young age, but one has a feeling that for this young woman, the best is yet to come.