Without an incumbent on the ballot, the race to represent California’s newly drawn 42nd Congressional District is one of the most interesting races in Los Angeles County. The L.A. Times, a publication owned by a billionaire, has painted the race as a contest between Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Southeast L.A. Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, neglecting to examine the other candidates.
While the political establishment is convinced one of the Garcias will emerge victorious, Political Life knows that both Garcias are vulnerable. In Long Beach, Robert Garcia is widely opposed for his pro-developer housing policies, as well as for pushing higher taxes. In Southeast L.A., Cristina Garcia is opposed primarily by activists angered by her moves to privatize water systems. Both Robert and Cristina Garcia had protesters at their kickoff events.
If the 2018 midterm election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed us anything, it is that voters are eager to elevate new faces to the national stage. Here, we profile each of the lesser-known candidates in the race for the 42nd, according to their public statements on their campaign, as well as L.A. County records, in alphabetical order by last name.
Joaquin Beltrán, Engineer/Community Organizer, Democrat
According to his website, Beltrán was born in East L.A., and grew up in Downey. He is the son of seamstress and a machine operator. He states that his family has had their own small business, and that he has advocated for small businesses before the City Council.
On Twitter, Beltrán says he was on the Biden-Harris 2020 team, as well as Obama 2008. Facebook pictures show him many other elected officials, including Downey and East L.A.’s current Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Supervisor Hilda Solis, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Beltrán's major policy headlines include “job creation,” “quality, affordable, assessable health care,” “make homes more affordable,” “better education,” “action on climate change,” and “conservation and animal protections.”
John Briscoe, Ocean View School Board Member, Republican
The only member of the GOP on the ballot, Briscoe is Governing Board Member of the Ocean View School District, which is entirely in Orange County.
Professionally, Briscoe has a long history in corporate America. His Board profile says “Briscoe is a management expert having held senior-level positions at Kraft/General Foods Inc., Mars Inc., The Hain-Celestial Group Inc., and Keebler/Bakeline Inc.” He is a broker and has a real property asset management business.
Briscoe’s website says his key issues are homelessness (“We must put a stop to the rampant homelessness"), immigration (“once our border is secured, we can discuss pathways to citizenship for those who have earned it”), infrastructure (“Project Labor Agreements are the bane of cost savings and taxpayer value”), and healthcare (“We need to alleviate price controls on hospitals and doctors”).
Julio Cesar Flores, Education Administrator/Entrepreneur, Green
Julio Cesar Flores is the only candidate in the race who is not running in the two-party system. His website asks voters to support his "independent, third party candidacy." In his bio, Flores says he was born in East L.A. and grew up in Huntington Park, and that his family faced many challenges. He narrates being homeless during his community college years, living out of his car, and eventually transferring to UCLA.
Flores previously ran for the 33rd State Senate seat, to represent much of the same area in the 42nd Congressional District. His campaign Facebook shows that he was active in the anti-war movement during the Trump era; he appears in pictures with Abby Martin, host of the anti-war Empire Files.
On the policy front, Flores is calling for Medicare for All, Gasoline Under $2, Housing the Veterans and Homeless, Publicly Owned Utilities, Green New Deal, and Immediate Citizenship for 14 million.
Nicole López, Non-Profit Organization Employee, Democrat
Nicole López announced her candidacy to the Southeast L.A. community in a summer 2021 campaign video. She narrated the experience of her immigrant grandfather, who started a family business that is well-known in Spanish-speaking communities. Fronteras del Norte, based within the District in Huntington Park, serves many working-class families, including those in rural agricultural regions.
Although neither the campaign video or her website describe much about López' personal background, a profile by Latino Rebels says that Lopez works an East Coast job from her childhood home, in the District. Specifically, she works as Senior Communications Associate at Supermajority, a 501(c)(4) organization focused on gender equity.
On her campaign website, López is headlining Medicare for All, Quality Education, and Small Business Support. Additionally, her Twitter shows that she advocates for Student Debt Cancellation. A campaign video released after she qualified for the ballot showed her supporting "Abolish ICE."
Peter Mathews, Professor, Democrat
Peter Mathews is a Professor of American Government at Cypress College. On his teaching website, he quotes the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone for, “Politics is not about money and power games, it’s about improving peoples’ lives.”
Alongside his academic and teaching work, Mathews has been a guest on many platforms, including The Young Turks, CNN, and KTLA. He is the author of Dollar Democracy On Steroids, With Liberty and Justice for Some, How to Reclaim the Middle-Class Dream for All. Past interviews show that he is passionate on issues ranging from immigration to single-payer healthcare.
On his website, Mathews brands himself as "People powered, not corporate bought!" His policy headlines include the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, Tuition Free College, and Cancel Student Debt. On Twitter, Mathews currently has a pinned post showing him with a sign that reads "Protect Students Not Guns."
William Moses Summerville, Pastor/Hospice Chaplain, Democrat
According to Summerville's website, he grew up in the Chicago area, and settled in California after serving in the Air Force. He is a pastor and a hospice chaplain in Long Beach. He endured many personal hardships, including homelessness, and says he draws strength from overcoming past barriers.
Summerville has been involved in local protest movements, such as the caravan to Bruce's Beach—a movement that called for racial justice. On the campaign trail, his Facebook shows that he is part of the #BankBlack movement.
He was involved in the Bernie Sanders movement, and voices support for many of the same policies advocated by the Senator, including "$15 living wage, free education from kindergarten through college, reparations, undocumented immigrant justice, ending forever wars, and health care as a human right in the form of Medicare for All. "
Can any of the progressive candidates survive the top-two primary?
Established in 2011, California's top-two primary elections system serves two anti-democratic functions. First, it elevates the most well-funded candidates of each party. Second, it virtually eliminates third-parties from the general election.
The historical pattern is that, in contests like the one in the 42nd, it is common for the Republican to overcome the lesser-known Democratic, third-party, and independent candidates. As such, if the Democrats/Green fall behind, Briscoe could pull a second-place finish on primary election night, all but assuring a November victory for either Garcia.
Yet, the perceived frontrunner, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, is widely despised by the activist community in Long Beach, and Assembly Member Cristina Garcia has faced considerable community opposition in the Southeast Cities. In this context, a united front of the lesser-known candidates might succeed in tarnishing the Garcias just enough to crack open the race.
Think it can't happen? Neither did the consultants working for AOC's opponent.
Political Life is a collective of citizen-journalists in Southeast Los Angeles.