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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2nd Congressional District Candidate Garcia hopes to bring new approach to solving country’s problems with smaller reform

NASHUA – With Congress failing to address the nation’s challenges, Salem Republican Marilinda Garcia said Tuesday that she hopes to be part of a new generation of lawmakers who look beyond traditional labels to solve the country’s problems.

Garcia, a New Hampshire state representative who hopes to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, shared her outlook on the country’s political climate during a meeting with the Telegraph editorial board Tuesday. ...

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NASHUA – With Congress failing to address the nation’s challenges, Salem Republican Marilinda Garcia said Tuesday that she hopes to be part of a new generation of lawmakers who look beyond traditional labels to solve the country’s problems.

Garcia, a New Hampshire state representative who hopes to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, shared her outlook on the country’s political climate during a meeting with the Telegraph editorial board Tuesday.

Garcia said distrust of government has grown to the point where voters feel not only that politicians are dishonest and corruptible, but that government is working to deceive people by any means necessary.

That sense has been heightened in recent years by scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she said, as well as the response by President Barack Obama’s administration to the attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya in 2012.

While she accepts that mistakes will be made, Garcia said cover-ups and a lack of honesty by federal agencies has eroded the trust of voters. She said the time has come for new leaders in Washington who will challenge the status quo while maintaining the country’s core values.

The 31-year-old Salem resident is serving her fourth term in the New Hampshire House. She is one of four Republicans competing in a primary race in September to challenge Kuster for her U.S. House seat.

Garcia said her time in state government has demonstrated how policy affects everyday citizens as well as industry. It also has helped her learn to cast aside “knee-jerk terminology,” such as the labels attached to partisan groups, she said.

“You come to respect and understand why we’re all there at the end of the day,” she said.

While watching the political process in Washington, Garcia said one of her greatest frustrations has been that party leaders continue to draft large reform packages rather than taking an incremental approach.

The result is that lawmakers are forced to vote on omnibus bills that contain controversial items. Those who vote “no” are branded as traitors to a worthy cause or obstructionists, leading to further inaction in Washington, she said.

Garcia said she instead hopes to reform the tax code and implement other changes by making small progress on which there is broad consensus.

“There are plenty of reforms and ideas that we do agree upon that are important,” she said.

For example, she said, many Republicans agree with individual reforms included in the president’s health care law.

While she supports repealing the law entirely, or dismantling the pieces she deems ineffective – such as new taxes on medical devices and the law’s individual health insurance mandate – Garcia said others are widely popular, such as covering pre-existing health conditions and keeping children on their parents’ health insurance plans through age 26.

“I would love to lead with those things that I think are important, incremental, piece by piece. That’s how I think progress can be made – getting consensus around those and actually achieving them and passing them,” she said.

Garcia said she would bring the same approach to fixing the country’s immigration system. However, before any reforms can be made, Garcia said the U.S. must strengthen its border security. Otherwise, crises like the one playing out now in Texas, where droves of immigrant children are arriving at the border, will continue to play out, she said.

Garcia said she believes an enhanced border fence and upgraded border patrols are measures that could help address the security issue.

“I don’t know exactly what it is we’re lacking, except I know we’re lacking security and, you know, purview of what’s going on,” she said. “If buses can just come across, clearly something isn’t protecting them.”

Born to an Italian-American mother and Spanish-American father, Garcia has attracted national attention as GOP leaders try to appeal to Hispanic voters. The Republican National Committee highlighted her as one of a select group of young leaders to watch. A high-powered political consulting firm with ties to the conservative Koch Brothers’ fundraising network also signed on to represent her.

Outside of her legislative duties, Garcia is a faculty harp professor at Phillips Exeter Academy and two other schools after graduating from Tufts University and the New England Music Conservatory. She also earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

If elected to Congress, Garcia said she recognizes as an incoming freshman, she would face impediments in Washington. She said her goal over the next two years would be to take the causes about which she is passionate and try to find consensus.

She would join a group of House Republicans who have taken some blame in the past several years for the inactivity in Congress. Garcia pointed out that, with the president and Democrats pushing their own agenda, House Republicans have been forced into the position of being a last line of defense.

House Speaker John Boehner also has taken flak from those on the right who believe Republican leaders haven’t done enough to advance a conservative agenda. The divide was highlighted earlier this year when Boehner supported a bill to raise the country’s debt ceiling without new spending cuts.

While she does not side with Republicans who are willing to risk a national default, Garcia said she would have pushed for spending reductions before agreeing to such a measure.

“It was the right move if one is absolutely intent on not accomplishing reform and avoiding default. That was what he was going for,” she said of Boehner. “I don’t know what forces were at play at the time, but did it accomplish anything in terms of debt reduction? No, so I consider that a failure.”

Although Garcia has risen to prominence in some GOP circles, she said she isn’t concentrating on the state of the Republican Party as she prepares to challenge Kuster in New Hampshire.

“I’m just a Republican because at this point in time, this is the only party that a majority of the time is representing and trying to uphold values that I think have made this country exceptional,” she said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).