Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is running for Congress, he announced via YouTube.

Garcia, who is seeking the Long Beach-based seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Alan Lowenthal, dedicated his congressional campaign to his late mother, who brought him to the United States when he was 5 and died from COVID-19-related complications early in the pandemic.

“My mom brought me to this country and risked everything so that I could become an American,” Garcia said in the YouTube video announcing his candidacy on Friday. “She came here never doubting that America was a place where her immigrant son could succeed. That’s why today, I am fighting for every kid to get the same shot that this country gave me.”

Garcia’s mother, a healthcare worker, and his stepfather died from COVID-19 complications within weeks of each other in 2020. Garcia said he would work as hard as he could to ensure other families would not experience the same pain as he did. He was instrumental in expanding Long Beach’s mobile testing and vaccination efforts, which drew national recognition from health experts and praise from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Long Beach was the first city in California to vaccinate educators, which led to Long Beach Unified reopening schools before most other districts in the state. Long Beach was also the first city in California to vaccinate 99% of its senior population.

Upon his election as mayor of Long Beach in 2014, Garcia become the first Latino, immigrant, and LGBTQ elected mayor in the city’s history. He grew up in Southern California, and is married to Matthew Mendez Garcia, a professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach.

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, was the first group to endorse Garcia for Congress.

“Mayor Garcia has shown throughout his nearly 13 years in elected office that he has the skill, tenacity and compassion to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people and the diverse communities to which we belong,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a statement. “From creating one of the country’s most comprehensive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to establishing transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage in the City of Long Beach, he has been there for our LGBTQ+ community and for all Californians. We need a leader like him in Congress, and we’re prepared to do everything in our power to ensure he is elected in 2022.”

Lowenthal, who holds the seat Garcia is seeking, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 117th Congress.

The primary election will be June 7 and the top two finishers will advance to the general election on Nov. 8.

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