Beginning with Santa Clarita Valley residents, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) launched a three-part series of telephone town halls on Monday to talk to constituents and reflect on his actions in Congress over the past 10 months.
This was the first public town hall event Garcia has held since being re-elected in November, with the hope of the next major town hall to be in person later this year.
Garcia opened the hour-long event with a 40-minute address detailing his work in Congress to date, including his emphasis on national security, border security and protecting healthcare for those with preexisting conditions by co-sponsoring the Preexisting Conditions Protection Act. This was followed by 20 minutes of questions by SCV residents, most of whom praised Garcia. Also in attendance, according to Garcia, were Santa Clarita City Councilmembers Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Jason Gibbs.
He addressed the Jan. 6 insurrection, saying that he did not support those who attacked the Capitol Building, adding that what transpired was inexcusable.
“That’s not how we protest,” Garcia said. “Lawful, peaceful protests are okay. But that was, in fact, an insurrection and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would support that type of behavior, especially not in the people’s house, not around this issue.”
He addressed election security and said there can’t be faith without “100% confidence in our election process.” He defended his opposition to the electoral votes in those states, having wanted a meaningful debate on the House floor to resolve any issues.
“This wasn’t an attempt to change the outcome of the election, this wasn’t an attempt to do anything else but to highlight the fact that there were some issues with the way these states were governing these elections and it was being done through the attorneys general, through the secretaries of state [and] through the governors and not the state legislatures themselves,” he said.
One of the few questions without praise directed to the congressman asked if he ever was involved with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – white nationalist groups identified among the pro-Donald Trump rioters during the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 – and questioned his actions in photographs on social media of Garcia with people outside the Capitol on Jan. 5 as well as with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia).
“I didn’t take any photographs with her,” he said. “That wasn’t us going out of our way for a photo op. We were literally seated next to each other on the floor during debates and votes, and someone took that screenshot as an opportunity to make it look like her and I were close in some capacity. She’s a fellow member of Congress, I’ve literally sat next to pretty much every other republican on the House floor at some point and that’s the extent of that.”
Regarding the Jan. 5 photo, he added that he spoke with a family from Maryland visiting Washington D.C. Garcia denied being a member of any white supremacist groups and said that he did not support the far-right QAnon conspiracy theories. Garcia was one of 146 Republicans in Congress on Oct. 2 to vote “yes” on condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes.
“I’m not a supporter of QAnon, I don’t know who QAnon is. I have no interest in finding out,” Garcia said. “I’ve never seen his posts so I don’t know if I believe that I have condemned him publicly.”
He emphasized that his loyalties lie with the United States Constitution and he “does not ascribe to party politics.”
“I was surprised that his screener put me on because I was asking a question that had been all over Facebook and I gathered that most everyone who called were Republicans and his supporters,” said Carole Lutness on Tuesday. She called to ask about association with white nationalist groups, QAnon and Garcia’s photo with Greene. “In the future, I would like to have people from all sides of the issues and who are knowledgeable about issues like income disparity and healthcare to be part of the these discussions to fact-check. I think that would make for more meaningful dialogue.”
“To your point, a lot of these folks are infected with [COVID-19] and we don’t even know it,” Garcia said. “A lot of these folks will be released and will not show up to their court dates to be processed back into their countries of origin. These are not only health risks but national security risks and in the end, this isn’t good for people who come here legally.”
Neither Garcia nor the callers mentioned the March 16 hate crime that resulted in the deaths of six Asian Americans, eight people in total, in Atlanta, or the mass shooting in Boulder, Colo. Garcia later tweeted on Tuesday that “[o]ur prayers are with the victims and their families today.”
No questions from any journalists present were taken during the town hall.
Garcia said that his office would respond to questions from constituents not addressed at the town hall via email or telephone.
The second chance in this series of town halls with Rep. Garcia will be held tonight at 7 p.m. for Simi Valley residents. Those who want to call and ask the congressman a question can call (833) 305-1686. He will close out out this run of town halls for Antelope Valley residents on March 24 at 7 p.m. AV residents can call using the same phone number above.
Ryan Mancini contributed to the reporting of this story.