By John Toole
---- — SALEM — Four-term Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, ended weeks of speculation and formally entered the 2nd Congressional District race yesterday.
“I simply cannot stand by while our state continues to be hurt by an overreaching federal government that is recklessly spending our country into debt, punishing entrepreneurship and taking away our freedoms,” said Garcia in announcing her run.
She said she intends to focus on business development, job creation, education and health-care issues.
She also will advocate for reduced regulation and lower taxes to spur job growth.
As a legislator, she pushed bills to provide seed capital for entrepreneurs and to allow Cancer Treatment Centers of America into New Hampshire.
Garcia, 30, is the daughter of David Garcia, chairman of the Salem Republican Committee. Her sister, Bianca, is a state representative from Salem.
Garcia has a master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government. She has been an adjunct instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy and St. Paul’s School.
She has long been expected to seek higher office in New Hampshire, especially after the Republican National Committee labeled her “a rising star.”
Her decision sets up a primary with former state Sen. Gary Lambert, 54, of Nashua for the Republican nomination.
“I welcome it,” Lambert said yesterday. “I was waiting for someone to join me. I knew I wasn’t going to run alone.”
His campaign is focusing on economic issues.
“Jobs and the economy and what to do about getting more jobs in New Hampshire and getting the economy better,” Lambert said.
Congressman Ann McLane Kuster, a Democrat, is expected to seek re-election.
State Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein characterized Garcia as a “Tea Party ideologue” who will try to bring a reckless and irresponsible ideology to Washington.
But he fired on both GOP candidates.
Voters should brace themselves for an “inevitable reckless race to pander to the same extreme right fringe of the Republican Party that forced the federal government shutdown,” Kirstein said.
Garcia has been closely allied in the New Hampshire House with controversial former Speaker William O’Brien.
Her opposition to casino gambling created resentment among the Salem delegation and other Southern New Hampshire lawmakers during the last session.
“She’s not for gambling, I am,” Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, said yesterday.
While Griffin said she would allow Garcia to have her opinion about gambling, she acknowledged Garcia has some fence-mending to do with area lawmakers due to her casino opposition.
“Yes, with her own reps in Salem and here, too, in Windham,” Griffin said.
Griffin already had been speaking with Lambert about his campaign.
“I will have to think this over carefully,” she said.
Garcia already is too late to sign up Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, one of Lambert’s co-chairmen.
“She’s been a mentor of mine,” Lambert said.
Griffin described Garcia as a bright, remarkable young woman and said she has allied herself with the conservative Americans For Prosperity organization.
“You’ll see how bright she is. She doesn’t issue a statement or incite anybody at first,” Griffin said. “She does her homework and is prepared when she speaks.”