The Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated hosted its first monthly brunch of the year, featuring Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, as its guest speaker.
The event was held at the Embassy Suites in Valencia, where Garcia explained local and national Republican strategy and took questions from the audience on a broad range of issues and current events.
During his speech, Garcia said there are concerns regarding the number of local Republicans registered (29%), trends of increased voter registration for Democrats, and redistricting that dropped Simi Valley and picked up “very blue” and “kind of purple” neighborhoods such as Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.
“We’ve got to keep fighting in these lower-level seats,” said Garcia. “I keep telling the lower-level candidates that the reason we raise eight to $10 million within our campaign isn’t just to get me reelected, it’s to get that rising tide to get the voter turnout and we spend that money on not just getting Republicans to vote, but getting that middle third to show up and vote for conservatives without any sort of reference to party allegiance. Because that middle third is how we win, especially here in Santa Clarita.”
Garcia said having a realistic approach to winning local elections is key, especially since many conservatives in the area aren’t registered as Republicans and that overconfidence could lead to voter complacency. Garcia noted that he “got a lot of grief” for his concerns ahead of November’s election — but that Republican success in California and New York was due to the need to compete hard.
“You know, Newt Gingrich went on Fox News and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a 50-seat majority’ and I called Kevin [McCarthy] (R-Bakersfield), I was like, ‘I’ve seen this, this ends poorly. I don’t care if it’s sports or the military when you start counting on such huge landslide victories. People are gonna slack off, not everyone’s running as hard, not everyone’s raising money.’ They think there was this massive rising tide and frankly, we didn’t perform as well as we were hoping for because I think we got too complacent,” said Garcia.
Garcia also gave some insight into what happened behind the scenes during the dramatic vote to elect McCarthy as speaker of the House — the longest contest for the position in 164 years. A group of hardline Republicans prevented McCarthy from securing the gavel through 14 rounds of voting, a group Garcia was not a part of. McCarthy was finally able to grab the gavel on the 15th round at the cost of some concessions and compromises.
“The speaker’s race on TV began on Jan. 3, but the reality is it really began in the first week of November,” said Garcia. “The day after the election, we started having conversations around Kevin becoming the speaker. After the election… there was a debate, there was a primary race within the party. We get into a big room, 222 of us, including the new freshmen coming in, and there’s debates. No one debated Kevin. There was not another nominee that came forward.”
Garcia said it was after a contentious debate about the rules package, particularly in regards to the budget, when divisions were sowed, but ultimately quelled.
Following his speech, Garcia took questions from the audience on a broad range of issues, which included the Defense of Marriage Act, immigration, China, fentanyl, and inflation — the latter of which Garcia said is key to convincing “the middle third” of local voters.
“Inflation is the big issue right now. God knows in the next few years, what else happens. I thought Afghanistan was going to be the big issue in 2022 and everyone has forgotten about Afghanistan, which is a shame because we had so many other issues,” said Garcia. “Inflation is still the No. 1 issue. The question is: How do we correctly address it so that we convince people of what the real root cause is and how to get back to them to vote?”
Also in attendance was Mayor Jason Gibbs and William S. Hart Union High School District Board Member Joe Messina.