Vying for a congressional seat

State Rep. Marilinda Garcia speaks with The Sentinel's editorial board on Tuesday. Garcia, a Salem Republican, is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

State Rep. Marilinda Garcia sees little trust among voters for their elected officials — but she’s hoping she can win it back.

The Salem Republican, who has represented her hometown in the state Legislature for four terms, is running for her party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. She said she has seen mistrust between voters and politicians spread to the highest levels of government.

“It used to be that people said that ‘politicians, they’re dishonest and corruptible,’” she said in an interview with The Sentinel’s editorial board Monday. “But right now, in the last few years, from the very height of our federal administration — (among) the president himself and all of his surrogates — there have been a rash of issues and scandals that have shown that we are, in fact, being deceived.”

She mentioned problems that have plagued President Barack Obama’s tenure, such as the allegations that the Internal Revenue Service mishandled its investigations of political organizations and the 2011 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, but quickly moved along to what she described as more systemic problems in the country.

Garcia, 31, emphasized her focus in Concord on trying to keep young workers in the state.

“Our job development is increasingly not keeping pace with the available workforce,” she said. She said the state needs to encourage more jobs in high-tech industries and a better health care infrastructure for its residents.

A harpist and music teacher, Garcia has degrees from Tufts University, the New England Conservatory of Music and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

She said she would advocate dismantling most aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but that repealing the law would no longer be a viable option. She said she sees the country’s health care debate as a struggle between trust in the free market and government intervention.

While she agrees with provisions of the law that allow for coverage of preexisting conditions and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, the individual mandate for coverage is too invasive, she said.

“That’s a healthy debate to have when it comes to policy,” she said. “But when you foist something across the entire country ... based frankly on what are lies and false premises, that’s a real problem.”

Garcia emphasized a message she said she has heard from business owners across the state — that government regulation and taxation are unwelcome.

“They just feel as if the federal government is continually encroaching on their space and making their lives and their ability to do business, create jobs, expand, develop — all those things — increasingly harder.”

She said she would support handling the flood of undocumented workers into the United States by making immigrating through illegal means less attractive.

“We encouraged people to come here with the understanding that it would be easy, whereas we should be saying the opposite, that this is unacceptable.”

On many foreign policy questions Garcia said she didn’t have all the answers, but that the Obama administration has not been clear enough with foreign leaders.

“The U.S., whether you like it or not, whether you want that position of responsibility or not, we are a superpower and a stabilizing force in the world,” she said. “We … are lacking from our top leadership a sense of clarity and purpose.”

She said this has been especially evident as Russian president Vladimir Putin has attempted to control separatists in Ukraine.

“He’s basically thumbing his nose at us and seeing how far he can get,” she said. “If we’re not leading in that area, certainly Europe isn’t going to help us out.”

Garcia said she is generally in favor of opening up the U.S. energy markets to as many possibilities as it can handle, but she is skeptical of the Northern Pass project to run power lines from Canada through northern New Hampshire to Concord and western Massachusetts.

Residents of the state’s North Country have told her it will discourage tourists from visiting the area and cut through their land, she said.

A self-described Second Amendment advocate, Garcia said she would vote to strengthen enforcement of existing gun ownership laws and access to mental health care to combat gun violence.

She said reaction to mass shootings and gun-related crimes can often put much of the blame on legal gun owners rather than the people who commit the crimes.

“We end up, frankly, infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens instead of making us safer, instead of solving the underlying problems that I think contribute to the violence,” she said.

“We don’t know that reacting to a tragedy by clamping down on some sort of specific part of a gun or access … will prevent another tragedy from occurring.”

Garcia dismissed repeated claims by one of her opponents in the Republican primary, former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, that she doesn’t have enough of what he calls “life experience” to succeed in Congress.

“We’re supposed to be focused on the big picture,” she said. “There’s experience, and then there’s maturity and there’s clarity of message and clarity of purpose.”

In addition to Garcia, Gary Lambert, Lawrence, and Mike Little are seeking the Republican nomination. The winner of the primary on Sept. 9 will face incumbent U.S. Rep. Ann M. Kuster, a Democrat, in the November election.

Martha Shanahan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1434, or mshanahan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MShanahanKS.