PENN POLITICAL REVIEW | Winter 2016
Nicolas Garcia is a College senior studying political science who is currently running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who is from Florida, is running as a Democrat in Florida’s 41st District, which contains his hometown. He has been involved in the Fox Leadership Program and La Cas Latina at Penn, as well as interning in DC at both the Department of Education and the White House. The Penn Political Review sat down with Nicolas to talk about his campaign, his interest in politics, and how he thinks that Penn has helped to prepare him for public service.
Conducted and Transcribed by Claire Lisker
Penn Political Review (PPR): Why and when did you decide to run for Florida house rep?
Nicolas Garcia: Running for office has always been something I believed I would do one day. While I was at the White House I spoke with mentors and colleagues about my interest in politics and how education was becoming a more critical issue that needed a new perspective in Florida. My brother and I both graduated from the Florida public school system, and my sisters are still working their way through it. I saw education as an issue of immediate concern, and one that would not only affect my family, but every family that was from the same background as myself, who lack critical resources to see their children succeed. After those conversations I spoke to my family and friends about it and what it would look like if we went through with it. They were supportive and we decided to run.
PPR: What has the campaign experience been like and how are you balancing that with being a Penn student?
Garcia: Campaigning is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever done. Every day I am talking with my neighbors and constituents about the issues that they care about. You learn how tough some people have it and can be a very humbling experience. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else though. I’m running to represent my home and give back to a place who gave me everything to get where I am today. Without my family, my friends I would not have graduated high school, much less end up at a place like Penn. Having this drive helps keep me motivated when things are tough because I know my community needs every one of us to do our share to make it better. I see being a student the same as if I had another job and was running. Everyday people that run for office face challenges and obstacles to running in their personal lives. They must balance their daily lives with their political and civic activities. I am just like any one of them with school being that factor I need to balance. In fact, running as a student has been a tremendous experience, we are growing the number of our volunteers at Penn who are helping to strengthen our campaign and I believe it is in part because I am here and can personally interact with many of them. My campaign manager, Joshua Spector, is at Penn Law and many of those who have helped on the campaign to get it off the ground are current Penn students or alumni.
PPR: What have you learned so far during this process? Has your perspective on politics (or on anything else in particular) changed?
Garcia: Being a candidate is hard. You are putting your entire life in the public sphere to be viewed, analyzed, and critiqued. Not only are you also putting your life out there, but that of your family’s and friends’. I am grateful that they have stood beside me in this process. And as I mentioned it’s quite humbling. You learn what people need and care about most and think how you can help them. I’ve heard frustrated parents talk about how their children don’t have time to go out to recess because of new testing laws to senior citizens who worry about their medical bills. With each person I talk to I learn more about my community than I ever had before.
PPR: Has Penn helped prepare you for this journey? How so?
Garcia: I don’t believe that I could do this right now without Penn. One of the first classes I took was Dr. DiIulio’s American Government class. From that second on, I knew I wanted to find a way to be involved in the government. I’ve taken classes in DC through the Washington Semester Program and worked at the Department of Education, run mock campaigns through multiple courses, and thanks to the Wharton Public Policy Initiative, I was able to spend the summer working at the White House. Dr. DiIulio along with the rest of the Political Science department have been amazing at providing me the resources to do this. Outside of classes, being involved in the Fox Leadership Program and La Casa Latina have helped build different skills that I will rely on throughout the campaign.
PPR: What are the issues you are most passionate about?
Garcia: As I mentioned before, education is the key issue I am running on. Florida has undergone drastic changes in our education system ranging from new testing procedures to budget cuts and freezes. The education of our youth is vital to every aspect of our state. A robust education gives students the resources to be civically engaged, attend a good college, find high-paying jobs and more. A strong education focus also allows us to help residents in finding a new career through job-training programs and help our elderly adjust to new forms of technology. It is the one issue that I believe is central and forms the basis of almost every other political issue we face as a state. Nearly half of the schools in my county are rated as D or F schools and I want to change that. I’ve seen our schools become glorified daycares and it is wrong. It hurts our teachers who want to build future generations, it deceives our parents who want the best for their kids, and it limits our students who have their dreams and futures cut short. We must change this. I am also incredibly passionate about finding ways to strengthen our economy to get citizens in my district back to work. My district has a higher unemployment rate than both the country and Florida. I am working to find ways to bring new jobs to the district by incentivizing businesses and looking abroad to foreign investments. It is also important to keep Florida’s incredible environment in mind through all of this. It is part of what makes Florida such an amazing place and we owe it to future generations to safeguard it for them.
PPR: What makes you a unique candidate?
Garcia: The district that I am running for is my home. It is where I grew up, it is where I went to school, and it is where I will raise my own family. I know what it’s like to live in a household where you live paycheck to paycheck or to lack the resources in school to succeed. I am running to ensure that my home is a better and more welcoming place than it was when I grew up there. We need someone in the State House who knows these concerns because they lived them and still do today, to be a voice for those who aren’t heard and advocate for them. I also have the determination to win. I want to serve my community for the rest of my life, and God willing, for the next 50 or more years. This is something that is close to my heart and I have every motivation to keep going no matter the obstacles we may face. I want to build a brighter future for the sunshine state.