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Garcia: It wasn’t a D.C. party May 25, 2006

Posted by ronodenmedia in In the Media.
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Cindy Uken
The Desert Sun
May 12, 2006

Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia chose “a party” over “public service” when she attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House instead of staying in Sacramento to vote on a historical $37 billion bond package, her two Democratic challengers say.

It was not a party, Garcia said, explaining that she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a three-day policy summit during which she met with President Bush on immigration.

Garcia, of Cathedral City, said she also met with congressional leaders, lobbyists and cabinet members who are involved in immigration reform.

The trip was planned six weeks ago, she said. When she left May 3, there was “absolutely no indication” the bond issue would come up for a vote on May 5 during her absence. When she learned there was, she told her staff she would fly back if needed, she said. But by Thursday night it was clear the governor had the votes he needed to get the bond package passed so she stayed in Washington.

“I make absolutely no apologies for what I did because I know who I am and I know what I stand for,” Garcia said. “I had an opportunity to speak to the leader of the free world on something that impacts 12 million people.”

Ron Oden, mayor of Palm Springs, and Steve Clute, a former legislator from Palm Desert, aren’t buying it.

“If you’re summoned to the White House, that’s an honor and it would be hard to pass up,” said Oden. “But this vote was the highest bond vote in the history of our state with money that directly impacts people in the 80th Assembly District. I would have been in the Assembly.”

“Yeah, sure,” Garcia shot back after hearing what Oden said.

Oden and Clute face each other in the June 6 primary; the winner will challenge Garcia, a two-term incumbent, in November.

Clute said the opportunity to vote on a $37.2 billion bond package that so significantly impacts local government – and will create many high-paying jobs, especially the 80th Assembly District, comes along only once in a lawmaker’s lifetime.

Given the same circumstances, Clute said he would have canceled the trip to the White House.

“If you want to have substantive input on immigration you really should be heard in testimony in a congressional hearing,” Clute said. “If another face-to-face meeting with an extremely unpopular president is worth sacrificing four of the biggest votes of any legislator’s life, that’s her way. It would not be my way.”

Critics say Garcia’s absence on the critical vote gives her an excuse to tell voters she didn’t support the bond package that will take a toll on taxpayers’ wallets if it’s approved.

Garcia said she fully supports the bond package, one of a few Republicans who support the entire package. “I believe this governor is doing the right thing.”

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