Connie Garcia

Connie Garcia was the Democratic candidate for Oregon House District 20 in the 2006 election.

Sean Wasson, Alyssa Penn, and Alexandria Westlund interviewed Connie Garcia at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon on Wednesday February 2nd, 2012.

Connie Garcia is a strong believer in the rights of citizens, especially those of minorities. As a woman of Mexican American heritage, she knows first hand how difficult things can be. She campaigned for a better education system, one that did not leave children behind.

Q: Please share your views on the importance of women’s vote.

Response: “The price of liberty and freedom is eternal vigilance. We (women) recently got the right to vote. If we don’t use it, it could be in jeopardy. Rights are in jeopardy in states where they are considering requiring ID cards for voting.”

Q: What has been important in the past, and how does that relate to the present, with regard to women’s rights?

Response:  “It was not that long ago that we got the right to vote. Most of those women that fought for that right were also women who were abolitionists that fought for the rights of black people. I would like to think that they were abolitionists first who realized that they did not have the same rights as their husbands. There was lots of activity with women in labor strikes. We still have a long way to go.”

Q: What and who inspired you to run for office?

Response: Connie Garcia never thought about politics or running for office because her father had a negative view of politics. His parents were part of the Mexican people who were repatriated in the 1930s. Garcia retired because she got tired of teaching in an education system that was eroding away. Her older children had a better educational experience than her younger children. The older ones got to have shop, and home economics. Year after year programs would go unfunded. She was an elementary school teacher that ended up teaching in the high school. She got tired of seeing kids pushed out and neglected, so she left teaching. She lived the retired life a while, until a friend suggested that she run for office.

Q: What are the challenges and rewards for women who participate in politics through campaigns and office holding?

Response: “The person I was running against [Vicki Berger] was very well established already. I was not, I didn’t have the connections that she had. The climate toward minorities, and Hispanics, we are not there yet. There is a lot of anti immigrant sentiment. Religion was an issue as I do not practice. That was a big thing. There are a lot of people who practice their religion, and that may have cost me some support. Politics are not about religion, they are separate. Money was an issue, my opponent had the money that she needed, I had to go fund raise, which was difficult because people did not see me as a viable candidate to win.”

Q: What have you done and what can Oregonians do to promote civic participation?

Response: Connie Garcia grew up in the 1960s when there was a lot of social activism. She feels there is currently a lot of online activity, and people are not out there as they should be. The protest movements really need to be out there more, and in the online world. “I keep individually motivating people one on one. It’s just not there with the masses like it should be …Think of the police brutality of the 60s, compared to now with the mace and the pepper spray, its just crazy out there … Most people would not think that would happen now days in a place like California. People are intimidated.”

Q: Do the people that are running use their religion as a reason to get votes?

Response: “Listen to the Republican primary, yes they do. The people that are running right now on the Republican side are very conservative. Religion is part of their daily lives…It’s hard for someone who is not religious to break in. It’s tied in with the anti abortion, anti gay stuff.”

Q: When did Hispanics get the right to vote?

Response: “It’s part of being a citizen. It wasn’t like the blacks who had to pass a reading test. We had the right when we became citizens. My parents became citizens in their late 50s and they voted in every election following that. It’s a right that Latinos are empowered by. It did not face a lot of opposition like it did with the black Americans.”

Q: Did you focus only on education during your campaign?

Response: “The issue of health … is still being debated. Health is a right for everyone. How can you pursue life and liberty if you are not healthy? You cannot separate health and economics.”

Q: What has been the largest reward from running for office?

Response: “It may not have opened any doors, but I still meet people that voted for me. It’s cool to meet the people that supported me. I never gave myself any kind of importance in that kind of sense; I just did what I thought that I needed to do. I did not think that it would be possible, given my limitations, but once I started going door to door and people started listening, I realized that people were open to ideas. Even though I knew deep down I would not win the election …The recent election results show that there is some discontent with incumbents.”

Connie Garcia is a strong advocate for minorities having equal civil rights. Having a heritage as a Mexican American and growing up during the 1960s, she witnessed firsthand how difficult activism can be and how it also unites people of different races and sexes. Her story and history made her campaign unique. Her profession as an educator allowed her to see the administration of the educational system and also its many flaws. Due to this she stepped into the political world and campaigned for a better educational system, one that did not leave any children behind.

Image Courtesy of Connie Garcia

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