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California sending first openly gay immigrant to Congress

Long Beach voters are on track to usher in two historic firsts for the region: sending the first LGBTQ immigrant to Congress and electing the city’s first Black mayor.

Robert Garcia, the current mayor of Long Beach, is set to become the first openly gay immigrant in the U.S. House of Representatives, after a decisive showing from voters in the 42nd Congressional District, which includes Long Beach and southeastern Los Angeles County.

Although official election results haven’t been certified, Garcia was projected to win in the heavily Democratic district and has declared victory.

On Wednesday, he tweeted that he received an “incredibly gracious and inspiring call from President Joe Biden.”

“He’s in great spirits and feeling good,” Garcia tweeted. “I told him I’m ready to get to work.”

The seat Garcia left open in the city of Long Beach could also make history. Candidate Rex Richardson is in the lead and, if elected, is set to become the city’s first Black mayor. As of Thursday afternoon, he had 53% of the vote, leading by less than 4,000 votes. Richardson said in a statement that he was “confident” in his path to the mayoral seat, but he has not officially declared victory.

The midterm elections this week have made history across the state, with the first Latino elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate, Alex Padilla, to Helen Tran the first Asian American to become the city of San Bernardino’s mayor.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders, called Garcia’s win important for representation and also the future.

“With anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice legislation currently moving through Congress, the stakes of this election could not have been higher — and California voters delivered,” said Annise Parker, the president and chief executive of LGBTQ Victory Fund and former mayor of Houston. “His win tonight will inspire countless other LGBTQ and first-generation Americans to pursue careers in public service.”

Garcia, 44, is married to Matthew Mendez Garcia, a professor of political science at Cal State Long Beach.

At the age of 5, Garcia came to the U.S. from Peru with his mother, gaining his citizenship only years later as an adult. He was elected in 2014 to become the mayor of Long Beach, becoming the first openly gay immigrant mayor of Long Beach, and was later reelected.

During his tenure, he lost his mother and stepfather to COVID-19, but went on to lead an aggressive vaccination campaign that was lauded as a model by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Although final election results have not been certified as of Thursday, Garcia leads this race with 64% of the vote. His challenger, Republican John Briscoe, who sits on the Ocean View School District board, has received about 36% of votes.

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