Garcia taping speech

Mayor Robert Garcia records his portion of the Tuesday keynote speech for the Democratic National Convention.

Long Beach savored a small share of the Democratic National Convention spotlight on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Mayor Robert Garcia was one of 17 people from across the country selected as “rising stars” in the Democratic Party to give the keynote address during the second day of the convention.

The joint speech pitched former Vice President Joe Biden — who will be officially confirmed during the convention as the Democratic Party’s choice to face President Donald Trump in the November election — as the best person to lead the country through its current crises, which include the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recession the virus has caused, and calls for racial justice that swept across the nation earlier this summer and have continued.

The address was split among all the participants, who each gave small snippets of the overall message.

Garcia, for his part, said during the speech that the country faces the “biggest economic and health crisis in generations because our president didn’t — and still doesn’t — have a plan.”

The various speakers also outlined several hardships they’ve faced, with Garcia saying he, like so many others, has “lived the frustration of paying off student loans.”

And in a section dedicated to calling out the ways everyday Americans — like teachers, doctors, nurses and small business owners — have contributed to the country, Garcia said, “You deserve more than the constant chaos that Donald Trump delivers.”

Participants in the speech included Texas Congressman Colin Allred, Nevada state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb, Michigan state Rep. Mari Manoogian and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, among others.

Garcia and Randall Woodfin from Birmingham, Alabama, were the only mayors to join in the address; Garcia was the only Californian.

While 16 of the speakers shared the group message, the final “rising star” in the group — lawyer and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, best known for her 2018 Georgia gubernatorial campaign — closed out the remarks.

“Our choice is clear,” Abrams said. “A steady experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis, just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract.

“A leader who cares about our families,” she added, “or a president who only cares about himself. We know Joe Biden. America, we need Joe Biden.”

Garcia, for his part, said Tuesday night after the pre-recorded speech aired that he was excited to be able to participate.

“To be a small part of the convention and the keynote speech is great,” he said, “and I had a great time filming it, and I’m obviously excited about November and just the campaign we have ahead.”

Garcia said he filmed his portion a couple of days prior at Studio One Eleven in Long Beach.

The diverse group included the first Latina to serve in the Nevada state Senate, the first openly gay man in the Georgia state legislature and the youngest mayor to represent Birmingham in the last 120 years — along with Garcia, who is the youngest person, the first Latino and first openly gay person to serve as mayor of Long Beach.

Convention CEO Joe Solmonese said in a statement that those choices were made intentionally.

“The convention keynote has always been the bellwether for the future of our party and our nation,” he said.

Solmonese referred to the slate of keynote speakers as the “smart, steady leadership we need to meet this critical moment.”

Kevin Wallsten, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Cal State Long Beach, said the decision to give the keynote slot to such a wide range of up-and-coming officials reinforced the party’s goal in the presidential election overall.

“I think the Democrats faced a particular challenge at this moment of trying to get a wide variety of voices,” Wallsten said, “and to give them the platform to reach what they’re hoping will be a very diverse coalition of voters.”

But, he added, people shouldn’t rush to put too much weight on the keynote speech, particularly this year — as the coronavirus has prevented an in-person convention and viewership, so far, has proved lower than in 2016.

“The sort of line-up or group of speakers is really kind of an insider baseball set of preoccupations,” he said. “It’s not really going to move the needle one way or another.”

Still, Wallsten said, a brief moment in the spotlight for someone like Garcia could just be the first glimpse of what’s to come.

“His biography alone, independent of losing his mother and stepfather to COVID recently, is the kind of story that Democrats really love to highlight,” he said, referring to Garcia’s background as an immigrant from Peru who rose to lead one of California’s biggest cities, “and it’s the kind of story that really speaks to a lot of important constituents within the Democratic party.

“Potentially, Mayor Garcia’s story is the kind of story that could really, I think especially for a lot of Californians or people in the Southwest,” Wallsten said, “really make an impact and really resonate with a lot of people’s experiences.”

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