As mayor of Long Beach, California, Robert Garcia tried to turn his city into a model for responding to the COVID pandemic in 2020 with a lockdown, widespread public testing and a quick vaccine rollout. But it was not easy.

Garcia, 45, lost both her mother and stepfather to the coronavirus in 2020, before a vaccine was widely available.

“It’s challenging to be in a situation where your parent is in the hospital, intubated — and you’re being yelled at and yelled at by people in our community, people in positions of power, trying to get off your golf course again,” Garcia said in December. About to open from.” in farewell address,

That experience will guide him as he settles into his new job as U.S. Representative for California’s 42nd Congressional District and his new role as president of the incoming Democratic freshman class.

“What’s happened around misinformation, around encouragement by people in positions of power, like [Rep.] marjorie taylor green [R-Ga.] And it’s shameful to attack our medical community to discourage vaccination to others,” Garcia told HuffPost in a recent interview.

“I don’t know that I can forgive some of these people for what they’ve done for this country and just for their belief in basic medical science,” he said.

Garcia’s new fellow Democrats elected him “class president”, a formal title meant to give new members a voice in party decision-making.

“He was an immigrant. I was an immigrant.

— Representative-elect Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on Superman.

As class president, Garcia is poised to be one of the most prominent lawmakers in the 34-member class — not only from the pandemic but also from the January 6, 2021, uprising.

“Many of us in our class have been called to serve because of what has happened over the past few years,” he said. “We are the post-Trump class. We have seen the worst in leadership, worst in government.”

Being freshman class president is often the initial springboard to party leadership. Garcia appointed Robert Edmonson—a one-time member of staff to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) chief of staff—to be his own chief of staff, also seen as preparing to move can go. However, Garcia declined to address this possibility.

“I am thankful [Edmonson] A new person is coming to work,” Garcia said.

Garcia is emblematic of the increasingly diverse face of the National Democratic Party. She is an immigrant, brought to the US from Peru by her mother at the age of 5 and naturalized at the age of 21. He is also gay.

Both of those aspects of his life factor into his great passion outside of work: comic books. one of his initial tweet Here’s a photo of the stately, wood-paneled Library of Congress reading room for members of Congress after they won in November.

“Ok y’all I am angry,” he tweeted. “I can pull any comic book from the largest public comic collection in the country and read them here. Let’s go!”

The post got over 40,000 likes on Twitter.

Garcia said that he first got into comics as a way to learn English. The character of Superman in particular spoke to him. “He was an immigrant. I was an immigrant,” he said.

“I think the love of helping others, the love of country, being different, hiding my identity – I was a closeted gay man for a long time – those things appealed to me in comics.”

Garcia has no hobbies: He can speak knowledgeably about Rob Liefeld, who helped launch 90s comic publisher Image, as well as DC Comics from artist Jim Lee and the longtime “X-Men.” Executed writer Chris Claremont.

“I love the Mark Wide Flash run. It’s one of my favorite runs,” he said. “There’s also just the time period that stands out to me, the Dan Jurgens Superman stuff. I love that era.

He said he’s been to 20 San Diego Comic-Cons, which is a necessary pilgrimage for fans of sequential art, and the biggest hall in Hall H, where the most spectacular events are held, about 10 to 12 times, he Said.

It is unclear when Garcia and the rest of his fellow-elect will be sworn into office, given that Republicans are holding a speaker election. But he’s ready to take the oath of office, as only any comic book lover can.

In a tweet, Garcia announced Tuesday that he plans to be sworn in with a copy of the US Constitution three items below, His citizenship certificate, a photo of his parents, and a copy of the first issue of “Superman,” courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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