A rising star in the Republican Party, Marilinda Garcia could accomplish what few Republicans have been able to do: help the GOP move beyond its image of the party of old white men.
She is a 31-year-old state representative who on Tuesday night won the Republican nomination in New Hampshires 2nd Congressional District. She beat the GOP establishment pick, state Sen. Gary Lambert, and is now gearing up to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster in November.
To some, she is too young and doesnt have enough experience to be elected to Congress. But to others, she is just the type of person the Republican Party needs to change its image someone who is young, a strong conservative and a Hispanic.
Garcia, whose mother is an Italian immigrant and father is Spanish American, told the New Hampshire Union Leader when she first announced she was running for Congress that it was time for the Republican Party to broaden its appeal.
Yes, there is a stereotype about the Republican Party at this point, she said. It does concern me, so I feel its incumbent on me to be the change you want to see.
Marilinda Garcia emerges as a GOP rising star
This young Latina already has a long list of accomplishments. She was 23 years old when she was elected to serve as a state legislator in 2006. She has two bachelors degrees and earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard in 2010.
In addition, the Republican National Committee named Garcia a rising star in 2013.
At first, Republicans were hesitant about Garcia. She wasnt seen as a likely candidate to win the GOP nomination. But that started to change when conservative groups, like the Club for Growth and Freedom Works, began pouring in money to her campaign.
She also received an outpouring of support from Hispanic Republicans who reminded the national Republican Party that it needed to be serious about expanding its base.
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Among the Hispanic Republicans who came out to support Garcia was former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño. He headlined a fundraiser for her in June that featured prominent Hispanic Republicans.
Perhaps her biggest and most symbolic endorsement came from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who attended a rally in New Hampshire last weekend to show his support.
In a statement released by Garcias campaign and reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader several days before the rally, Cruz said he believes Garcia will stand up for the citizens of New Hampshire to repeal Obamacare, protect our constitutional rights, and restore jobs and economic growth. He also praised Garcia for her position on immigration.
Im proud to support Marilinda Garcia in her campaign to represent New Hampshire’s second congressional district because she is the candidate who will fight to stop President Obamas amnesty, work to secure the border, and celebrate a legal immigration system that both protects immigrants and our national security interests, Cruz stated.
Stance on immigration and other issues
On the campaign trail, Garcia received heavy criticism for signing a pro-immigration reform resolution last year when she was a member of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. The resolution backed legalizing the undocumented population.
State Sen. Gary Lambert, Garcias main opponent, revealed Garcias support for the resolution in a campaign ad and accused her of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. Garcia campaign spokesman Kenny Cunningham responded to the criticism, saying Garcia signed the resolution in an effort to put a solution on the table and insisted that the resolution did not call for amnesty.
She believes the fact that millions of people are in the U.S. illegally, making money, not paying taxes, and often receiving taxpayer funded benefits, is a real problem, Cunningham said in a statement. Figuring out how to deal with this problem starting with getting them to pay their taxes is her goal.
On her campaign website, Garcia describes immigration as a deeply personal issue and points to how her parents are immigrants. She goes on to say she opposes blanket amnesty and that she supports solutions that strengthen border security, enforce existing laws and reform our legal immigration system.
On other issues, Garcia holds strong conservative views. She opposes abortions, she wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, she believes in limited government and she describes herself as a strong backer of the Constitutions Second Amendment.
Political analyst Stu Rothenberg told OZY that Garcia is kind of an unusual package when it comes to political candidates.
But lets face it, Republicans need candidates that are in unusual packages these days, he said.