Marilinda Garcia is a young Hispanic state representative in New Hampshire who recently announced her candidacy for a competitive congressional seat. Upon which she was subject to a nasty attack by a colleague, dismissing her as a clone of another conservative in the state but in “stilettos,” then comparing her to celebrity Kim Kardashian.
In truth – as John Fund noted earlier this week in “The War on Conservative Minorities” — Garcia, in her fourth term in the statehouse, is considered a rising star in the party; she’s an accomplished harp player who has also earned a master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School. In an interview with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, she speaks for herself about the attack, women in politics, and the future of America.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What did you ever do to Peter Sullivan, who compared you to TMZ favorite Kim Kardashian, among other dismissals? Did you ever expect to be compared to her?
MARILINDA GARCIA: I do not know Sullivan personally, but I hope he finds peace. I think it’s unfortunate that women — whether they are Democrats like Hillary Clinton or conservatives like me – are often being evaluated by a different set of criteria that has nothing to do with our policy positions or how we would govern. This is not an issue I’m preoccupied with. I’m focused on what’s important to New Hampshire families: developing our economy to provide good-paying jobs and repealing Obamacare, which has done more harm to working-class New Hampshire than the president will acknowledge. But if running in this race helps show conservative young women that we do have a prominent place in the party, then that’s a positive.
LOPEZ: Has making national headlines presented some beneficial opportunities?
GARCIA: I am grateful for the opportunity to spread my message of new-generation conservatism — a message of respect that empowers a free people and free enterprise. However, it is a shame that those concepts must be communicated under headlines about a salacious reality-TV personality and personal attacks in the political sphere.
LOPEZ: Do women have it harder — is the criticism harsher or crasser — in politics?
GARCIA: I think we are subject to different frames of reference, criticism, and attacks than men are, especially when it comes to appearance. To me, the most unfortunate by-product of such personal attacks and vitriol is it discourages good people — and women in particular — from getting involved in politics; causes citizens to be disgusted at the political process; and tarnishes the reputations of all elected officials by virtue of association. And it distracts us from the issues that really matter: Do my children have access to a quality education? Can we count on a steady income from a good job? Will I have affordable health insurance or will it be canceled due to the president’s health-care law? These are serious questions that unfortunately do not always receive the attention they deserve.
LOPEZ: What draws you to public service?
GARCIA: My experience in the state House of Representatives taught me that what we do in government matters, and the interaction between federal and state governments is key. I have been able to sponsor legislation relating to regulatory reform in the health-care sector, development of the innovation economy and the high-tech industry, and pricing transparency in health-care services because I work closely with business leaders and citizens with the same goal of developing New Hampshire’s economy for the long term in areas that are important for our state. That opened my eyes that those closest to the citizens and challenges New Hampshire faces know how to best find solutions to those challenges. I want to be a part of solving our common problems, and for me that required getting involved and running in this race to prevent an adversarial federal government from wreaking havoc on our state budget and policies.
LOPEZ: You’re a musician. Does that prepare one for politics in any interesting ways?
GARCIA: Yes, in that communicating a message that resonates with people is the goal of both a campaign and a musical performance. You have to be prepared, yet be adaptable and ready for the unexpected, while being inspired and seemingly effortless. And while most of the work occurs off the stage, you’re judged on what occurs on the stage.
LOPEZ: What would you hope you that you could contribute to the House of Representatives on immigration? What would your pitch be to the GOP?
GARCIA: The immigration issue is deeply personal for me, as my mother is Italian-American and my father is Spanish-American. America is a welcoming country that has always found its identity as a nation of immigrants, so we must ensure that our policies always communicate respect and appreciation for the contribution immigrants have made to our country. Individuals who violate America’s immigration laws make it more difficult for the legal-immigration system to work, but the system as it currently stands is in great need of reform. We make it too difficult to stay here legally and too easy to stay here illegally, and it is wrong to give an advantage to those breaking the law over those who are trying to do things the right way.
LOPEZ: You’re so young. Is politics what you want to do with your life, for the rest of your life?
GARCIA: I’ve always considered public service a noble aspiration, not a personal ambition. To that end, I’ve never been pursuing a particular trajectory. There is a saying, “You may not think about politics, but politics thinks about you,” and unfortunately many of us have found that out the hard way with the NSA domestic-spying controversy, the IRS targeting of political groups, and now insurance cancellations due to Obamacare. Putting our heads in the sand and hoping government does the right thing is not a strategy. For the republic to endure, we need an active citizenry holding political leaders accountable. That’s what this race is about. We need a new generation of conservative leadership in Washington, and with the help of the citizens of New Hampshire’s second district, we’ll get the job done.
LOPEZ: How has the work you have done with abused and neglected children affected your work and political life?
GARCIA: I served as a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children within the New Hampshire family-court system. That experience imparted upon me the importance of strong, stable family structures and support systems, which make for strong and stable communities and a strong, stable country. The experience made me count my blessings, but also to be wary of inefficiencies in resources and administration within government social-services programs. There is so much more we could be doing to help vulnerable children in our country, and I’m not talking massive new government spending. From my experience, we need better management of how our resources are used.
LOPEZ: Who most impresses you on the political scene?
GARCIA: I am impressed with the people who are appreciated and most well-known in their home districts, rather than in Washington.
LOPEZ: What gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?
GARCIA: You mean besides coffee? Just the fact that we are on this earth for a limited time, so we ought to make the most of it, and in America in particular we are blessed with almost unlimited options as to how to strive to have a fulfilling life.
LOPEZ: Is America on the decline? What gives you optimism and drive for her future?
GARCIA: I believe we are at a crossroads. On the one hand, it concerns me that I have heard from very well-educated and successful community leaders: “What is our Plan B, when the U.S. economy and banking system crashes?” On the other hand, a big reason I’m running for Congress is that I believe we have much to preserve within the American dream — in a country that is the last great hope on earth and a nation worth fighting for. My hope is to be able to have a wonderful life and career and family for many years and many generations to come in this country.
LOPEZ: Do women have certain responsibilities and gifts to bring to politics?
GARCIA: Certainly you can look at women leaders such as Benazir Bhutto and Aung San Suu Kyi and see that they bring something special and a certain urgency and touch to the political arena. But those are women in crisis situations that had to risk so much — their very lives and families — to get involved. My effort is nothing in comparison, and it’s important to me that my generation steps up, has a voice, and claims responsibility in decision-making about the future of our country. Who should it matter to more than us?
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a director of Catholic Voices USA.