The race for California’s new 42nd Congressional District, which covers much of Long Beach and southeastern Los Angeles County, is nearing its conclusion — and voters will decide whether the area maintains its democratic stronghold or swings Republican during the Nov. 8 general election.
The newly established District 42 — formed by California’s independent redistricting commission in December — essentially combines the current 40th and 47th congressional districts. Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Boyle Heights, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, currently represent those areas, but both plan to retire after the current term.
In addition to much of Long Beach, the 42nd includes the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Downey, Huntington Park, Maywood and Signal Hill, the east side of Lakewood and most of Bellflower. Catalina and San Clemente islands are also in the district.
The new district, entirely within LA County, is overwhelmingly blue. More than 50% of registered voters in that jurisdiction were democrats as of Sept. 9, according to the California Secretary of State.
That pre-established base of blue voters seemed to help Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia during the primary, underscording his status as a rising star in the Democratic Party. He walloped a packed slate of opponents, winning a little more than 44% of the votes.
Prior to redistricting, both Garcia and his Nov. 8 Republican opponent, John Briscoe, were in a congressional district that included parts of the more conservative Orange County. There, voters are split more evenly along party lines, with around 37% registered as democrats and just over 33% registered as republicans.
The switch was thought to strip Briscoe, a longtime elected board member for the Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach — who ran and lost against Lowenthal for the 47th District in 2020 — of much of his Republican base. But still, he prevailed as the runner-up in June, with more than 26% of the votes.
His second-place finish came as a surprise to some political observers, who had predicted Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia to faceoff against the Long Beach mayor with whom she shares a surname. The assemblywoman, who touted herself as a natural successor to Roybal-Allard, finished a distant third during the primary, with about 12.5% of the vote.
Briscoe has anchored his campaign for the 42nd District on traditional republican issues: Bolstering the state’s economy, securing the nation’s southern border and reforming the immigration process, as well as addressing homelessness across California. Garcia, whose politics lean progressive, wants to address those same issues — though the two candidates’ plans to do so vastly differ.
For Briscoe, the rising costs of living caused by record-high inflation is the chief concern among California voters at present — and addressing that crisis will serve as a bedrock of his congressional term if elected, he said.
“The prices are too high,” Briscoe said in a recent interview, using an expletive not fit for print. He cited rising gas prices — California has the highest in the nation, at roughly $6.20 a gallon — as an example of inflation’s harm to consumers. Though the candidate didn’t lay out his plan to reduce inflation if elected, he criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis.
“(President) Joe Biden’s very hand signed the legislation that put us in this spot for spending too much money on things that we don’t need to do with the economy the way it is,” Briscoe said, alluding to Congress’ recently passed $740 billion climate and health care investment package, and the Inflation Reduction Act — which has yet to live up to its name thus far.
“The money you have in your pocket buys half as much as it used to,” the Republican added. “These are horrible things.”
Garcia, for his part, agreed that inflation and increased costs of living nationwide have caused disruptions to people’s lives. But investments such as those being made by Congress, he said, are necessary to support working class Americans as the economy tries to bounce back from the pandemic. The mayor referenced the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which will provide money to improve roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure across the country.
“Passing legislation like the infrastructure bill — which puts people to work and invests back into communities — (is a) great way of keeping people employed and going to the job base and growing the economy,” Garcia said in a recent interview. “People, every single day, are being helped by actions that are happening right now by Democrats in the House and by the president.”
That investment in everyday people, Garcia said, is something he’d push forward in Congress.
“We’ve got to continue passing fair economic policies for the country, so that the burden is not always shifted to working people,” Garcia said, “but that the very wealthy in our country have to continue to pay more of their fair share.”
Both candidates also said they want to address homelessness in LA county. There were 2,708 more individuals without permanent shelter in LA County this year than in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s point-in-time survey of unhoused people, which the agency released in early September. The countywide homeless population, as of that survey, was 69,144; that doesn’t include the number of homeless folks in Long Beach, Glendale or Pasadena, all of which conduct their own surveys.
Because some unhoused individuals report having experience with substance use or mental illness — about 39% said they had a serious mental illness or substance-use disorder, LAHSA’s report said — their sobriety should be checked by police on a regular basis, Briscoe said.
“It’s against the law to be intoxicated on public property,” Briscoe said, “We (should) do a test for intoxication. If they fail the test, they need to be ticketed and go in front of a magistrate immediately.”
From there, he added, if the individual is unable to pay any fine related to being under-the-influence in public, they should either be sent to jail for substance use or rehab.
“Congress can and should provide local communities the funding to pay for 30- or even 90-day sober living treatment to first-time offenders of ‘under-the-influence’ laws,” Briscoe’s campaign website says. “If the homeless person chooses to go back to substance use and is picked up again by the same city, it is a simple ‘Two-Sobriety-Strikes & You’re – Out!’
“This would allow a judge to commit the twice guilty homeless person to long term treatment in a mental institution or jail as is appropriate,” the website adds, “for being convicted twice of being under the influence.”
Garcia’s policies, meanwhile, pull from his experience addressing the crisis as Long Beach’s mayor for the past eight years — and focus on ensuring local cities have enough resources to build affordable housing, provide mental health care and support those in need, he said.
“The crisis is so large that the federal government has to be more invested and has to get on the ground working with states and cities,” Garcia said. “Congress has an absolutely important role as it relates to housing — particularly around making sure that there’s enough resources to build more affordable housing and supporting efforts in the House (of Representatives) to fund a major housing bill to get affordable housing built throughout our communities.”
Briscoe, for his part, also said that California needs to increase its stock of affordable housing by reducing administrative processes that slow the development process.
“The first step,” he said, “is removing the administrative, bureaucratic impediments to building housing.”
But, Briscoe added, he believes that reducing immigration into the state would also free up space in California’s housing stock.
“The problem starts, in my opinion, with too many people coming in and flooding the housing market,” he said. “Legal immigration, by the book, takes hard work.”
Briscoe said he isn’t a fan of certain immigration policies — including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA, or asylum status for those fleeing their native countries — because, in his opinion, they lack strong security protocols, allow unscreened individuals access to the U.S. and don’t provide a pathway to citizenship, he said.
“Most people should have access to a proper permitting process that checks them out, and makes sure they’re not drug dealers or criminals,” Briscoe said. “You just live on the edge and their visas keeps getting renewed — it’s not fair to them either.”
And, Briscoe said, securing the nation’s southern border is essential to “maintaining our sovereignty.”
“Once our border is secured,” Briscoe’s website says, “we can discuss pathways to citizenship for those who have earned it.”
For Garcia, who was born in Peru but grew up in the Los Angeles area, the U.S. immigration system is in need of major reform.
“I’m an immigrant myself so I understand the system,” Garcia said. “I think that we have a broken system. We haven’t had major immigration reform in this country since the 1980s — and I support creating a strong pathway to citizenship for the 10 million undocumented immigrants that are here, that are working hard and contributing to society.”
Undocumented folks — including those with DACA status or temporary visas — should be given a fast-tracked path to citizenship, Garcia said.
“There’s a variety of folks that are here that we should be granting citizenship for their service to our country,” he said. “But beyond that, we’ve got to create a solid pathway that’s earned over time.
“I think it’s fair to expect folks that are here to go through a rigorous process,” Garcia added, “to understand our country, our laws, our values and to earn citizenship.”
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Garcia also said Congress should take a look at establishing temporary visa programs for individuals who want to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time and then return to their home countries — which, he said, would help offset domestic worker shortages across the country.
“And more broadly speaking, we’ve also got to invest in specific types of foreign aid to Central and South America that are going to strengthen those economies so that we don’t have the migration that happens,” Garcia said. “We know that people are oftentimes desperate, which is why they come to the United States.”
Garcia — who has secured high-profile endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, among many others — has raised just under $1.2 million for his campaign since it launched in December 2021, according to the Federal Election Commission’s most- recent campaign finance documents.
Briscoe had just under $250,000 on hand, according to the FEC. But nearly that entire amount — all but $945 in individual contributions — came from personal loans Briscoe gave himself. There are no endorsements listed on his campaign website.
Election Day is Nov. 8. For voting information, visit lavote.gov.