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The Fight for the 36th Assembly District Seat Begins

-Editorial

The 36th Assembly District race in 2024 is poised to be fascinating, offering the chance for an Imperial Valley native to claim the seat. Meanwhile, in Coachella, it seems they already determined the successor for the current assembly member. But as John Podhoretz wisely noted, “Every great political campaign rewrites the rules; devising a new way to win is what gives campaigns a comparative advantage against their foes.”

The local political landscape was in shock on December 9 when it was revealed that Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia would not be pursuing a final term in the assembly. Speculation arose that Garcia might pursue the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, a position held by former Assemblyman Manuel Perez, representing the Coachella Valley.

The rumor began after The Desert Review newspaper published an editorial titled “Musical Chairs In Our Political World” saying that Perez was going to resign from his position as County Supervisor due to an illness. The editorial added that if Perez resigned, California Governor Gavin Newsom would have to make an appointment to fill the vacancy. “Several different sources indicated that the logical choice is Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia”, the editorial read. 

The editorial was removed from their website a few days later, and Supervisor Perez issued a statement refuting reports about his resignation.

“Upon reading his obituary, Mark Twain famously remarked, ‘The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,’” Perez wrote in a statement. “Like many of you, I was shocked to read an editorial published online by the Desert Review that falsely claimed I was stepping away from my duties on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Nothing could be further from the truth. While news of political musical chairs allows for speculation from some ill will and bad faith politically motivated individuals to conduct devious succession planning, rest assured that does not involve me as I am nowhere near ready to stop serving the residents of the Fourth District and those throughout the county. Our job is not done. We have more work to do to build more infrastructure, bringing more jobs into the desert, and building more affordable housing.”

Beyond Borders Gazette submitted a press inquiry to Garcia’s office on Dec. 11 asking for confirmation that he would not run for re-election and to address the speculation that he was running for County Supervisor. An official statement was released on Dec. 15. confirming that he would indeed not run for a final term. 

“After nearly a decade, this upcoming year will be our last in the State Assembly. Our time in the Assembly has proven the power of community-driven policy and collaborative advocacy. We will leave a strong legacy of public service and deliver hundreds of millions in historic investments for our district,” Garcia stated. “Our record of achievement includes securing historic investments for the Salton Sea, the New River, new parks, affordable housing, vital infrastructure, workforce development, and much more. We are proud of our work to increase access to medical care by expanding two regional healthcare districts and the strides we have made to improve air, drinking water, and other environmental health quality concerns.” 

Garcia expressed that his time in the assembly, coupled with frequent trips to Sacramento, caused him to miss important milestones in his children’s lives, and wants to spend more time with them. It remains unclear whether he intends to pursue public office in the future, as there was no mention of his future political plans.

But before bidding farewell to the Assembly, Garcia had already selected a preferred candidate to succeed him, his name is Joey Acuña. 

The Coachella Valley Unified School District Board member, Acuña, declared his candidacy for the State Assembly on Dec. 11. Currently in his fifth term on the Coachella Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, he previously ran as the Democratic candidate for State Assembly District 80 in 2002. In that election, he was defeated by Bonnie Garcia, who served six years in the state assembly.

“I’m running for State Assembly because I believe in the promise of California, and I want to make sure the kids who grow up in our district have access to world-class schools, good-paying jobs, housing they can afford, and clean air and water. I’ll listen to residents and work hard every day to improve and protect the quality of life in our Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino County communities,” Acuña stated. 

Assemblymember Garcia stated:

“Joey Acuña has dedicated much of his life to serving local communities. He is smart, thoughtful, and exactly the kind of leader our region needs to represent us in Sacramento. I believe that Joey is the best candidate to succeed me in the State Assembly and continue the fights to address climate change, build affordable housing, expand access to higher education, and improve mental healthcare infrastructure. I’m proud to endorse Joey Acuña, and I look forward to playing an active role in his campaign.”

Acuña’s supporters include State Assembly Speaker Roberto Rivas and a long list of elected officials making him the preferred candidate of the Coachella political machine. 

With the extended filing date, new candidates have entered the race for the state assembly. Notably, four Imperial Valley residents are among them: Eric L. Rodriguez, Kalin Morse, and El Centro Councilmembers Tomas Oliva and Edgard Garcia.

Councilman Edgard Garcia said his experience as a public official makes him the ideal candidate to represent the district. 

“The lessons I have learned throughout this journey have prepared me to lead and represent the interests of our great communities in Sacramento. I humbly ask for all your support and the opportunity to do what I do best and advocate on behalf of every man, woman, and child of our respective district,” Garcia said. 

As the curtain rises on the State Assembly race, anticipation fills the air. Contestants from Coachella Valley and Imperial County brace for a showdown. The burning question lingers: Will Imperial County secure a representative deeply connected to the community, or persist under the influence of a political group from Coachella Valley?

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