Martin Garrick, the newly elected Republican Assemblyman from San Diego County’s 74th District, is no stranger to working in a divided government.
More than two decades ago, Garrick was working for the Reagan administration, negotiating energy policy with Congress. Today, he is preparing to re-enter the legislative world and will come to Sacramento to work, yet again, with a Republican executive and Democratic majority in the Legislature.
“I see a great deal of similarities and some significant differences” between Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, Garrick said, the most notable difference being the weekly Thursday commute back to his district in the northern portion of San Diego County. But much like his time in Washington, Garrick said, “the challenge will be that we [Republicans] are a minority.”
Yet Garrick is up for the task and plans to apply his experience working with a Democratic Congress to his future work in the state Assembly.
A California native, Garrick, 53, was born in Glendale. Other than a five-year absence while working for then-President Ronald Reagan, Garrick has stayed in the southern part of the state, living in and around Los Angeles and San Diego. In 1980, he moved east to join Reagan’s presidential campaign. Reagan’s victory meant a position for Garrick on the White House transition team, followed by a job as Deputy House-Senate Liaison, where he served as the President’s voice on energy policy until 1985.
As House-Senate Liaison, Garrick worked with energy secretaries Jim Edwards, Donald Hodel and John Harrington to promote the administration’s energy agenda and to help craft legislation that could win approval from both Reagan and the Democratic Congress. Garrick said the experience gave him firsthand knowledge of the legislative process and taught him how to work with Democrats to create viable bills.
But by the summer of 1985, Garrick retired temporarily from the lawmaking business and returned to California. In the early 1990s, he founded two California-based corporations: a telecommunications company and a real-estate investment firm. Since leaving Washington, he has remained politically active, serving on local crime and budget committees and as the first vice chairman of the San Diego Republican Party.
Married with four children, Garrick said his youngest child’s departure for college, coupled with his “disappointment with the direction financially and business-wise that the state has been headed,” prompted his decision to run for office.
Among his top priorities will be law enforcement, the budget, promoting business interests and reducing freeway gridlock. Garrick hopes for committee assignments in Utilities and Commerce, Insurance, Business and Professions and Government Organization.
The 74th District, which includes the cities of Del Mar, Solano Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, is a Republican stronghold that has remained under GOP control for more than 20 years. The real contest for the seat–vacated by termed-out former Rep. Mark Wyland, who has moved down the hall to the Senate–occurred during the June primaries when Garrick was challenged by Scott Packard, son of a former congressman, and Marie Waldron, a city-council member.
Garrick, whose first brush with politics was as a 12-year-old-boy walking precincts for Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign, drew criticism during the primaries for breaking the Republican Party’s Eleventh Commandment–“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”–which was established during the ’66 campaign after mudslinging within the party proved disastrous for Republicans during the primaries.
Garrick released a negative mailer about opponent Packard, in which he called Packard a “shady contractor,” highlighting a lawsuit that was filed against Packard while he was working as a contractor in Nevada. Packard objected to the mailer, saying it falsely implied that he had moved to California to avoid paying a judgment.
“I had two Republican opponents, both of them had great name ID,” Garrick said in defense of the mailer. “Packard had some business difficulties in Nevada. … I was sharing the facts regarding some of his business practices outside the state of California.”
Despite criticism over the mailer, Garrick was victorious, defeating Waldron and Packard in the primary by 10 and 18 percentage points, respectively. In the general election, Garrick received 58 percent of the vote, his Democratic opponent Roxana Folescu just 42 percent.
Representing a highly conservative district in “one of the gateway counties” for illegal immigration, Garrick stressed immigration reform throughout his campaign. In the days leading up to the primary elections, Garrick posted on his campaign Web site a pledge to voters that, “on my first day in office, I will submit a new law to increase penalties for any illegal alien caught committing a felony in our nation.” Garrick said he would also work to make the home countries of illegal immigrants responsible for the cost of jail time served in the United States.
Garrick proposes securing the border and cracking down on illegal immigrants and sexual predators as “the first step toward turning our education system around.” An outspoken critic of the three-strikes law, Garrick said it’s “two strikes too many,” and believes sexual predators should never be released from jail.
Improving highways and ending freeway gridlock, another important issue in his district, also will be a high priority. Garrick hopes to build on the passage of Proposition 42, which requires the use of gas-tax revenues for transportation maintenance and improvements. He said the next step is to create a more proportional distribution of transportation funds to “stop Los Angeles from taking our freeway money.”
Garrick also will look to tap into his business experience to make California a more business-friendly state. Critical of the annual $800 registration fee that all corporations must pay to the state, Garrick said the fees are driving businesses out of California, particularly small-business start-ups that begin with limited resources. Another bill Garrick plans to introduce in January would reduce corporate registration fees and streamline the registration process.
“I think in the true home of the Internet, between Berkeley and UCLA