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Garcia talks health care, foreign policy

PETERBOROUGH — State representative Marilinda Garcia drew national attention, even before she sought to capture the Republican nomination to run for Congress in New Hampshire’s Second District. The 31-year-old Salem woman, who has served four terms in Concord, was identified as a “rising star” in 2013 by the Republican National Committee, which took note of her atypical background as a young conservative woman of Hispanic and Italian background.

“I embrace being who I am,” Garcia told members of the Ledger-Transcript’s editorial board during a visit to Peterborough on Wednesday. “If I can inspire others, I consider that a great thing. But I don’t like identity politics. People should be judged on the issues.”

One of the main issues on the minds of people she talks to is health care, Garcia said. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has resulted in “turbulence,” she said, that has people confused about both their current options and what is to come.

“Their situations have been turned upside down,” Garcia said. “Business owners are concerned. It touches everyone. It’s important to dismantle the egregious parts of Obamacare. It seems like it could turn into another [Veterans Administration] and we’ve seen how that works.”

Although Garcia said in an earlier visit to the region that she would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected, she qualified that statement a bit on Wednesday, saying some parts of the law would be worth keeping.

“Coverage up to age 26 is good. Coverage for pre-existing conditions — I’m glad that occurred,” Garcia said. She also said broadening the use of electronic medical records is worthwhile.

A complete repeal is probably an unrealistic goal, according to Garcia.

“I would love to see targeted legislation,” she said. “I think there are a lot of areas where there could be bipartisan support.”

On education, Garcia said she is a strong believer in retaining local control. She noted that New Hampshire students do well on tests in comparison to students from other parts of the country.

“If we’re having success, it’s a mistake to standardize,” she said. “When you do, you’re reduced to the lowest common denominator. We should all be able to learn from the success of others.”

Involved parents have been shown to be the greatest factor in determining student success, Garcia said, and their input should be crucial.

“If a public or private charter school is best, [parents] should be able to make that decision.”

Garcia said she had supported a tax credit program to benefit families sending children to private schools. But she added that in her opinion most successful private schools don’t want significant government support.

When asked how she could help to strengthen families, Garcia said there was no easy answer.

“It has to do with so many cultural shifts. All you can do is help your own family,” she said.

It’s important to determine where support is needed before devoting federal money to social problems, Garcia said. Her first priorities would be to attempt to help people with disabilities and those with mental health issues.

Garcia said she hadn’t really become familiar with the Northern Pass project, which calls for 180 miles of power lines through parts of the White Mountains, until that is she started campaigning in the northern and western parts of the Second District.

“When I’ve talked to people, they obviously care very much. [Northern Pass] is a huge issue. To my understanding, the concerns are damage to the environment and the impact on tourism.”

While Garcia’s primary opponents, Gary Lambert and Jim Lawrence, have strongly opposed Northern Pass, Garcia said there might be room for compromise.

“People seem amenable to the idea of burying the transmission lines,” she said.

Garcia and her Republican opponents have sparred recently over immigration issues, with Lambert and Lawrence charging that Garcia has supported amnesty for those who entered the U.S. illegally.

“I don’t support amnesty. I don’t support granting citizenship,” Garcia said. “This is being used as a wedge issue. Deporting 12 million people is not practical. I believe some sort of legal status needs to occur. My opponents have contorted that into amnesty.”

Garcia said all our borders need to be made secure, because the situation in Syria and Iraq, with large parts of each country under the control of the Islamic radical group ISIL, is “an evolving disaster.”

“We need to be very aware of who is coming into our country,” she said, noting that hundreds of ISIL militants are said to have U.S. or European passports and they pose a clear threat.

Garcia said the Obama administration has mishandled the situation in the Middle East.

“We had a series of missteps,” she said. “When the president announced a timeline for withdrawal in Iraq, it was a mistake. We didn’t leave enough support structure in place. He did make the right decision recently with air strikes.”

Garcia said the U.S. needs to do more to restrain ISIL, which she called the “fiercest ruthless terrorist organization” that the country has ever had to deal with.

“I don’t want boots on the ground, but we have some already and we don’t want to leave them unsupported. It’s wrong to telegraph what we’ll do. We need to have all our options on the table.”

Garcia said one of her top domestic priorities, if elected, would be to work for tax reform.

“We have high corporate tax rates and the IRS doesn’t exactly have the best reputation right now,” she said. “People are afraid to start a business; they’re afraid of running afoul of the law. I’ve advocated for closing loopholes and lowering the actual tax rates, in a way that would be revenue neutral.”

Garcia said she would be interested in serving on committees dealing with health care, finance and tax reform if she wins the Congressional seat, although she noted that as a new legislator she would have little choice on her assignments.

Garcia, who is a harpist and teaches music as an adjunct professor at Phillips Exeter Academy and St. Paul’s School, said she wasn’t planning to get into politics when she considered helping with a campaign in 2006. But someone suggested she should run for the state Legislature, which has the most members of any legislature in the country.

“Our state offers a unique path for people to get involved,” she said. “I ended up winning. It progressed from there.”

Garcia is planning to be married in November, after the election. She said her music career has been put on hold for the time being.

“I don’t have a political path in mind,” she said. “I’m running for Congress because it’s an important time to be engaged.”

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