Local educator vows to reprise reformer role in Sacramento

DOWNEY - Cristina Garcia wants to reform the way Sacramento works, and she doesn't believe a lifelong career in politics is necessary to do it."I've always been a Democrat, but the idea of reforming government, making sure constituents know where their tax dollars go, crosses party lines," said Garcia. "Some people might think things are never going to change because the special interests are in charge, but we need to take responsibility - we can do this." Garcia, a college professor and community activist, is confident her message of fair and honest government will resonate with voters this year as she runs to represent the newly-drawn 58th Assembly District. Garcia recognizes she is one of the lesser known candidates running for the 58th Assembly District seat, but the 34-year-old mathematics professor at Los Angeles City College believes residents will soon identify with her once they hear her story. "People don't know my name, but it's a matter of getting our message out, knocking on those doors, talking to voters," said Garcia. "I know the skills I have is something they want." A self-described "true reformer," Garcia was instrumental in the efforts to recall the embattled Bell city council members and elect reform candidates to the council. She organized a community group, called BASTA, the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which called for the resignation of corrupt city administrators and continues to fight for access to decision-making for residents. In 2009, Garcia ran for the Bell Gardens City Council, but lost. Today, however, she believes her activism and prior campaign experience have prepared her for the arduous state Assembly campaign ahead. "When I ran in 2009, it was spontaneous," she said. "But all our goals were met, 900 voters turned out. That let me know the community was eager for change. I never saw it as a path to run again. "I was really hesitant to run [for the Assembly]. Many of my counterparts announced in August. I was hesitant, but I'm dissatisfied with the way things are going in Sacramento," Garcia said. "And I may not have this chance in five years." Garcia admits she won't have the funding that the heavy hitters in the race have, but she believes her campaign, which is currently using donated space inside the historic Rives Mansion in Downey, is community-driven, a real grassroots movement with experienced team members. According to campaign financial statements, Garcia's campaign raked in nearly $92,000 between Jan. 1 and March 17, including a $52,000 loan Garcia made to her campaign. "We're not going to have $500,000, but we're not going to owe special interests anything either," said Garcia. Endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters, Ali Saleh and Danny Harber, the mayor and vice-mayor of Bell, and the Bell Police Officers Association, Garcia is seeking the support of advocacy groups and political outsiders that can vouch for her reformer credentials. "I'm bringing a unique set of qualifications to the set of problems we're facing today," she said. "Politics is not my lifetime career. I'm not going to Sacramento to party or be rich; I'm going to help my counterparts and make them better, to remind them why they were sent there." As part of her platform, Garcia believes education, including math and English proficiency is desperately needed to help reduce unemployment. "To be globally competitive, we have to provide training to people. We have to rethink the workforce, retrain the workforce," she said. Garcia is also hoping to help end the bickering in Sacramento upon election. "You have to be a team player," she said. "I had a businesswoman mother who was conservative financially. You have to find that balance. California is one of the most unfriendly business states. I'm an environmentalist. I believe in saving the environment, but we have to sit down and find that balance." While many feel the system will never change, Garcia is confident that it can if voters get involved in the process. "I never play the lotto, but I tell my students, if you don't try, it's guaranteed you're going to lose."

********** Published: April 12, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 52