Cristina Garcia (politician)

Cristina Garcia (born August 22, 1977)[1] is an American politician serving in the California State Assembly. She is a Democrat representing the 58th Assembly District, which encompasses parts of southeastern Los Angeles County, including her home city of Bell Gardens. She has served in the Assembly since 2012.

Cristina Garcia
Cristina Garcia cvr 180515 3796.jpg
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 58th district
Assumed office
December 3, 2012
Preceded byCharles Calderon
Personal details
Born (1977-08-22) August 22, 1977 (age 44)
Bell Gardens, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationPomona College (BA)
Claremont Graduate University (MA)
University of Southern California

While Garcia had been involved in politics in high school, where she organized opposition to Proposition 187, after college she became a teacher. In the late 2000s, tired of what seemed to her to be inaction by the Bell Gardens city council, she began attending its meetings and questioning its members. A bid to get elected to council herself failed, but a friend who lived in neighboring Bell asked her if she could attend that city's council meetings and help her figure out why its property taxes were so high. The investigations they did led to a municipal corruption scandal in which several city officials were found to have enriched themselves at public expense, and were imprisoned.

In 2012, Garcia defeated Tom Calderon, a former assemblyman, in the primary and went on to defeat her Republican opponent in the general election for the 58th District seat. She was re-elected in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. In December 2021, Garcia announced she was running in the primary for the newly created 42nd Congressional District that will stretch from Long Beach to Downtown Los Angeles.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Garcia was raised in Bell Gardens, California, one of a number of largely Latino working-class suburbs in Southeast Los Angeles County. Her parents, who were from Mexico, divorced when Garcia's mother was pregnant with her. Her mother worked making clothes in a sweatshop, raising her four children in a one bedroom apartment. Later, Garcia's mother started her own clothing manufacturing business and remarried. Investments in other businesses and properties followed, and though they were upwardly mobile, the family stayed in Bell Gardens.[3]

Prop 187 oppositionEdit

While still in high school, Garcia and a friend organized opposition to Proposition 187, a statewide ballot measure championed by then-governor Pete Wilson that sought to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit undocumented residents from receiving non-emergency health care, public education and other services in California. Although Prop 187 passed in November 1994, it was later found unconstitutional and never implemented.[4]


Growing up, Garcia was a self-described math nerd.[5] She went to Pomona College, where she studied both math and politics. She spent her junior year studying in Prague as the Czech Republic, after years of Soviet rule, took its first steps toward democracy in the wake of the Velvet Revolution.[3] Later, she earned a teaching credential and a master's degree from Claremont Graduate School, and is a doctoral candidate in public administration at USC.[4]

Early careerEdit

After graduation, Cristina taught math and statistics for 12 years, first in a Los Angeles public high school, then at L.A. City College, and at USC where she taught statistics.[3]

Anti-corruption advocacyEdit

After her mother suffered a heart attack in 2009, the thirty year-old Garcia moved back to Bell Gardens to help care for her parents (her stepfather was already struggling with diabetes). She has admitted to being frustrated with the move because, like many ambitious young people from the area, she had felt success meant "leaving and never coming back."[3]

Bell Gardens activismEdit

She complained regularly about the city's lack of services and economic development, until she took her sister's advice to stop griping and do something about it. She became a regular at City Council meetings, turning into an agitator and a gadfly. She studied budgets, learned how to make Public Records Act requests, tracked the compensation city officials received, and demanded fiscal responsibility.[3]

In 2009, Garcia ran for Bell Gardens city council, but fell 114 votes short of getting one of the three open seats.[3]

City of Bell corruptionEdit

At about the same time, activists in the neighboring city of Bell were growing concerned about rising local property taxes, and what their money was going toward. One of them asked Garcia for help, and she started digging into Bell's finances. Los Angeles Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb said Garcia was one of the first people he interviewed about corruption in Bell— "Talking to Cristina and others, you got a feeling that there was something wrong in Bell".[3]


On Thursday, July 15, 2010, the Los Angeles Times broke its first story on the corruption in Bell. Headlined "Is A City Manager Worth $800,000?" it detailed the exorbitant salaries Robert Rizzo and other Bell city officials were paid. (For their coverage of the corruption in Bell, Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives were awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.)[3]

That night, Garcia and local businessman Ali Saleh—with Dale Walker and Denise Rodarte joining the next day— founded a group that would come to be called BASTA—an acronym for the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, and in Spanish, ENOUGH![3][4]

Garcia became the chief spokesperson for the grassroots movement that, according to BASTA political consultant Leo Briones, did 60 press releases in a year. In a city where the electorate was known for apathy, the group drew hundreds of residents to town hall meetings, covered the city with overnight flyer blitzes, staged rallies and flooded council meetings with thousands of angry residents.[3][6]

Bell recallEdit

After the mayor and targeted council members refused to step down, BASTA organized a recall effort in August 2010 and started collecting signatures to put the measure before the voters.[7] In March 2011, the effort succeeded in ousting Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, as well as Luis Artiga, who had resigned but remained on the ballot.[8]

Rizzo and corrupt officials sentencedEdit

On April 16, 2014, former city administrator Robert Rizzo was sentenced to 12 years in state prison and ordered to pay $8.8 million in restitution to the city of Bell—in addition to the 33 month federal prison sentence he had already received for tax fraud.[9] In all, seven officials received sentences and fines, including an 11 years and eight months prison sentence for Rizzo's assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia.[10]

California AssemblyEdit

In 2012, Cristina won a seat in the California Assembly with an upset victory over former Assemblyman Tom Calderon in the Democratic Primary, and garnered 71.5% of the vote despite being outspent by a margin of 7 to 1 against her Republican opponent.[11]

Calderon resignation advocacyEdit

In 2013, Garcia was the first member of the California Legislature to call for then State Senator Ron Calderon to resign from office after an unsealed FBI affidavit and subsequent news reports surfaced of possible corruption.[12] Calderon was the most powerful member of a political dynasty for decades in California that included his brothers, former state assembly members Tom Calderon and Charles Calderon, and his nephew, current state Assemblyman Ian Calderon.[13]

In October 2016, Ron Calderon was sentenced to 42 months and admitted in a plea deal of accepting tens of thousands of dollars from undercover FBI agents and a hospital executive. Tom Calderon was sentenced to a year in federal custody for laundering bribes taken by his brother.[13]

A judge's recommendation in August 2017 that Ron Calderon be considered for early release drew outrage from Garcia who said, "Granting his request ... after only serving seven months in a white-collar facility—is an added insult to my community and a void of justice in our democracy."[14]

#MeToo advocacy and sexual misconduct allegationsEdit

In 2017, Garcia became recognized as a strong voice in the #MeToo movement. In an interview with The New York Times, Garcia revealed that she had been repeatedly sexually harassed by men during her legislative career, and later co-signed a letter calling for an end to workplace harassment of women.[15] She has also said that some members of the California Assembly are not attentive during sexual harassment training that is conducted by legislative staff.[16] She was one of a number of people whose pictures were featured in Time magazine's 2017 Person of the Year issue honoring what it called "The Silence Breakers"—women (and men) who had broken their silence about experiences of sexual harassment.[17][18]

In January 2018, Daniel Fierro, a former staff member for Assemblyman Ian Calderon and current head of Presidio Strategic Communications (formerly Fierro Public Affairs), a public relations and public policy consulting firm that lists Calderon as a client,[19][20] claimed an intoxicated Garcia had once groped him against his will following the Assembly's annual softball game in 2014.[18][21] Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon removed Garcia from all her committee assignments, one of which, the Natural Resources Committee, she chaired.[22] In November of 2018, Rendon notified Garcia the second investigation found that a preponderance of evidence supported a finding that Garcia had encountered Fierro in an overly familiar way that she would not have if she were sober, but did not support his claim that the encounter was sexual in nature. It found her behavior violated the California Assembly’s Policy Against Sexual Harassment.[23]

An unnamed lobbyist also accused Garcia of sexual harassing him at a Sacramento political fundraiser in March 2017 while she was intoxicated, alleging that she had made inappropriate sexual proposals and attempted to grope him.[18]

Committee assignmentsEdit

As of January 2019, Garcia's committee assignments for the 2019-2020 legislative session, include Budget; Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials; Natural Resources; and Utilities and Energy.[24]

For the 2021-2022 session, Garcia was named chair of the Budget Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety and co-chair of the select committee for Corporate Board and California Workforce Diversity. Garcia's membership assignments on standing committees include Banking and Finance; Budget; Budget Committee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight and Program Evaluation; Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials; Natural Resources; Utilities and Energy; Water, Parks, and Wildlife. Garcia was one of eight assembly members named to the Joint legislative Budget Committee.[25]

In December of 2020, Cristina Garcia was elected to again lead the bipartisan California Legislative Women's Caucus, made up of members of both the California Senate and Assembly, a body she had chaired up until the spring of 2018.[26]

2022 run for U.S. CongressEdit

On December 23, 2021, Cristina Garcia announced that she will run for the newly created 42nd District seat to join California's Congressional delegation in the U.S. Congress. The new district combines portions of two previous districts to create a majority Latino district that includes a swath of Long Beach along with areas Garcia currently represents in the California Assembly that include Bell and Downey.<[27]

Electoral historyEdit

2012 California State AssemblyEdit

California's 58th State Assembly district election, 2012
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Patricia A. Kotze-Ramos 9,015 28.1
Democratic Cristina Garcia 8,517 26.6
Democratic Tom Calderon 7,290 22.7
Democratic Luis H. Marquez 3,946 12.3
Democratic Daniel Crespo 2,096 6.5
Democratic Sultan "Sam" Ahmad 1,197 3.7
Total votes 32,061 100.0
General election
Democratic Cristina Garcia 91,019 71.8
Republican Patricia A. Kotze-Ramos 35,676 28.2
Total votes 126,695 100.0
Democratic hold

2014 California State AssemblyEdit

California's 58th State Assembly district election, 2014
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 19,392 100.0
Total votes 19,392 100.0
General election
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 43,182 100.0
Total votes 43,182 100.0
Democratic hold

2016 California State AssemblyEdit

California's 58th State Assembly district election, 2016
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 56,052 100.0
Republican Ramiro Alvarado (write-in) 19 0.0
Total votes 56,071 100.0
General election
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 105,170 75.3
Republican Ramiro Alvarado 34,449 24.7
Total votes 139,619 100.0
Democratic hold

2018 California State AssemblyEdit

On June 5, 2018 Garcia finished first in the race for the 58th California Assembly seat in California's top-two primary election. In a field that included seven Democrats, Mike Simpfenderfer, the lone Republican, finished second, setting up a race between him and Garcia in the November general election.[28]

California's 58th State Assembly district election, 2018
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 14,509 28.9
Republican Mike Simpfenderfer 13,246 26.4
Democratic Pedro Aceituno 6,386 12.7
Democratic Karla V. Salazar 4,603 9.2
Democratic Friné (Lore) Medrano 4,447 8.9
Democratic Ivan Altamirano 3,809 7.6
Democratic John Paul Drayer 1,653 3.3
Democratic Miguel Angel Alvarado 1,568 3.1
Total votes 50,221 100.0
General election
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 84,003 70.4
Republican Mike Simpfenderfer 35,301 29.6
Total votes 119,304 100.0
Democratic hold

2020 California State AssemblyEdit

2020 California's 58th State Assembly district election[29][30]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 55,553 77.3%
Green Margaret Villa 16,295 22.7%
Total votes 71,848 100
General election
Democratic Cristina Garcia (incumbent) 122,864 74.9
Green Margaret Villa 41,100 25.1
Total votes 163,964 100
Democratic hold


  1. ^ "Cristina Garcia's Biography". VoteSmart. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  2. ^ "California Assemblywoman launches congressional run, setting up contested primary". 23 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Aron, Hillel (September 5, 2017). "Assemblymember Cristina Garcia is Shaking Up the Establishment". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on January 3, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Vértiz, Vickie (November 20, 2014). "How Do We Come Back? Assemblymember Cristina Garcia on Leadership in Southeast L.A." KCET. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  5. ^ Tsidulko, Joseph (May 14, 2014). "Cristina Garcia: From fighting Corruption in Bell to the State Assembly". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  6. ^ Folkenflik, David (September 24, 2010). "How The Los Angeles Times Broke The Bell Corruption Story". Weekend Edition Saturday. NPR. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  7. ^ Esquivel, Paloma (September 28, 2010). "Bell recall organizers claim enough signatures for vote". L.A. Now blog. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  8. ^ Goffard, Christopher (March 9, 2011). "Bell voters cast out the old and opt for the new". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  9. ^ Knoll, Corina; Gottlieb, Jeff (April 16, 2014). "Rizzo gets 12 years in prison, marking end to scandal that rocked Bell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  10. ^ Knoll, Corina; Mather, Kate (April 10, 2014). "Former Bell official Angela Spaccia gets 11 years, 8 months in prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  11. ^ Gottlieb, Jeff (November 11, 2012). "Cristina Garcia goes from Bell activist to Assembly post". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  12. ^ Hews, Brian (November 2, 2013). "Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia Demands Senator Ron Calderon to Resign". Los Cerritos Community News. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  13. ^ a b McGreevy, Patrick; Rubin, Joel (October 21, 2016). "'My reputation is destroyed': Former state Sen. Ron Calderon sentenced to 42 months in prison in corruption case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  14. ^ McGreevy, Patrick (August 14, 2017). "Lawmaker says idea of early prison release for former Sen. Ron Calderon is an 'insult' to the public". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  15. ^ Nagourney, Adam; Medina, Jennifer (October 17, 2017). "Women Denounce Harassment in California's Capital". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Ronyane, Kathleen (December 19, 2017). "Lawmakers' sex harassment training like '4th grade lecture'". Reno Gazette Journal. Associated Press. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "Time Person of the Year: The silence Breakers". WNYC The Brian Lehrer Show. December 6, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Marinucci, Carla (February 8, 2018). "#MeToo movement lawmaker investigated for sexual misconduct allegations". Politico. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  19. ^ "Daniel G. Fierro". February 27, 2018.
  20. ^ "Social Media Management - Clients". February 27, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  21. ^ Hawkins, Derek (February 9, 2018). "Female California lawmaker behind #MeToo push is accused of groping male staffer". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  22. ^ Myers, John (May 17, 2018). "Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia disciplined for sexual harassment as investigation comes to a close". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  23. ^ Modesti, Kevin (November 29, 2018). "Second investigation clears Cristina Garcia of key harassment charge, but finds she broke rules". Whittier Daily News.
  24. ^ "Assembly Speaker Announces Leadership and Committee Assignments". CalChamber Advocacy. 4 January 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  25. ^ California State Assembly Retrieved 13 March 2021. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ California Legislative Women's Caucus’s. Retrieved 13 March 2021. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ Haire, Chris (December 24, 2021). "Bell Gardens Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia will face Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia for Congress". Long Beach Press-Telegram. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  28. ^ "Results from the California primary". Los Angeles Times. June 5, 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  29. ^ "Statement of Vote, Presidential Primary Election, March 3, 2020" (PDF). California Secretary of State. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Statement of Vote, General Election, November 3, 2020" (PDF). California Secretary of State. Retrieved 23 March 2021.

External linksEdit