California sending first openly gay immigrant to Congress

Long Beach voters are on track to usher in two historic firsts for the region: sending the first LGBTQ immigrant to Congress and electing the city’s first black mayor.

Robert Garcia, the current mayor of Long Beach, will become the first openly gay immigrant in the US House of Representatives after a pivotal showing by voters in the 42nd congressional district, which includes Long Beach and southeast Los Angeles County.

Although official election results have not been confirmed, Garcia was expected to win in the heavily Democratic district and has declared victory.

He tweeted on Wednesday that he received an “incredibly gracious and inspirational call from President Joe Biden.”

“He’s in great spirits and feeling good,” Garcia tweeted. “I told him I was ready to get to work.”

The seat that Garcia left open in the city of Long Beach could also make history. Candidate Rex Richardson is at the helm and, if elected, will become the city’s first black mayor. As of Thursday afternoon, he had 53% of the vote and was leading by less than 4,000 votes. Richardson said in a statement that he was “confident” on his way to the mayoral seat, but he did not officially declare victory.

This week’s midterm elections made history across the state, with Alex Padilla, the first Latino elected to represent California in the US Senate, versus Helen Tran, the first Asian American to become mayor of the city of San Bernardino.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders, called Garcia’s win important for representation and for the future.

“With anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice legislation currently moving through Congress, the stakes of this election couldn’t have been higher — and California voters have delivered,” said Annise Parker, president and executive director of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and former mayor of Houston . “His win tonight will inspire countless other LGBTQ and first-generation Americans to pursue careers in public service.”

Garcia, 44, is married to Matthew Mendez Garcia, a professor of political science at Cal State Long Beach.

At the age of 5, Garcia came to the United States from Peru with his mother and only received his citizenship years later as an adult. He was elected mayor of Long Beach in 2014, becoming Long Beach’s first openly gay immigrant mayor. He was later re-elected.

During his tenure, he lost his mother and stepfather to COVID-19 but continued to lead an aggressive vaccination campaign that Gov. Gavin Newsom praised as a role model.

Although final election results have not yet been confirmed as of Thursday, Garcia is leading the race with 64% of the vote. His challenger, Republican John Briscoe, who sits on the Ocean View School District board of directors, got about 36%. California sending first openly gay immigrant to Congress

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