Amid economic headwinds, first lady Jill Biden’s LA visit urges more Democrats in Congress

LOS ANGELES — First lady Jill Biden continued her two-day visit to Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 16, encouraging Democrats to “work harder” to elect more allies to Congress during a private fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.

With the midterm elections less than two months away, Biden urged those in attendance to imagine how much of President Joe Biden’s agenda could be accomplished with more “partners” in office.

“Just imagine what he could do with a couple more partners in the House and in the Senate,” the first lady said about the president. “You know, we could restore women’s rights. … We could protect Social Security and Medicare. … We could ban assault weapons.” She later spoke of preserving marriage equality.

But that potential future faces headwinds. President Biden faces national concerns over his handling of the economy, though his popularity has improved from his lowest ebb over the summer, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And while Joe Biden’s fortunes have risen of late, gaining Democratic ground in the House or Senate will not be easy in a year when conventional wisdom says Republicans are likely to win the majority in the House in the midterm elections.

Jill Biden’s remarks come as voters in northern L.A. County must decide whether to cast their vote for incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Garcia or his challenger, Democrat Christy Smith, in what is expected to be a tight race to represent the 27th Congressional District. In their last match-up, Garcia beat Smith by just 333 votes — a race that many see as a microcosm of how purple, swing districts might go. Either way, a win would be big in gaining, or maintaining, the majority in Congress.

During her address, Biden sought to cast the Democratic Party as the party going to bat for what Americans value and made a point of trying to appeal to female voters. About 18 guests – the vast majority of whom were women – gathered for the luncheon, at the home of writer-producer and Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman.

“It’s not enough to just get angry. We have to get out and get to work … especially with these elections,” the first lady said. “We can do this, I mean, especially if we can get women to see what rights are being taken away.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the federal landmark case that upheld abortion rights for nearly five decades. And this week, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

During her roughly 10-minute address, Biden also said the vast majority of Americans want affordable prescription drugs, but “Democrats are the only ones fighting for it,” and that Americans want big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and investments into clean energy, “but not a single Republican voted for any of that.”

“They’re letting down all Americans, including the millions of Republicans,” she said about the GOP party.

Ahead of Friday’s luncheon, Hallie Balch, the Republican National Committee’s California and Nevada communications director, criticized the event.

“First lady Jill Biden’s trip to Los Angeles to attend a lavish fundraiser while Californians are struggling amidst historic inflation and 13 consecutive days of rising gasoline prices is tone deaf, to say the least,” Balch told City News Service on Thursday.

The lunch event in Hancock Park was for the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, which is raising money for the Democratic National Committee and state parties, according to a report in Deadline. Tickets reportedly started at $5,000 per person, with those who wrote checks for or raised $25,000 also designated as hosts.

Following Friday’s luncheon, Biden visited Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Café in Chinatown. The establishments are part of Homeboy Industries, a gang rehabilitation and re-entry program that trains and supports former gang members and previously incarcerated people.

During the fundraiser, Biden was introduced by Kauffman, the host, who made a point of highlighting the first lady’s various titles. Biden holds a doctorate in education.

“Our system of education is sick. It has a disease,” Kauffman said. “So who do you call when you have a disease? The doctor. Ladies and gentlemen, the first lady Dr. Jill Biden.”

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Biden, who teaches English courses at Northern Virginia Community College, is known for placing education issues at the forefront.

During her last trip to L.A. in June, Biden delivered the keynote address to graduates at the L.A. City College commencement ceremony.

On Friday, the first lady suggested that education would remain a priority in her husband’s administration.

“I knew that Joe was going to be the — the — education president because he’s (been) with me for 45 years,” she said.

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