Montana State Rep. Rodney Garcia has been asked to resign. Republican leaders in the Montana House of Representatives sent a letter with that request to Garcia signed by Speaker of the House Greg Hertz; E. Wylie Galt, the speaker pro tem; and House Majority Leader Brad Tschida, all Republicans. Garcia is not having it.
Monday I wrote about Rep. Garcia’s headline-grabbing claim that socialists can be shot or jailed because, he said, the Constitution allows it. While his frustration with the growing trend of normalizing socialism in the United States is understandable and justified, there is no such clause in the Constitution. Not only does that deny freedom of speech, but it also denies differences in political philosophy. The proper reaction, especially from an elected official, is to encourage political debate and discussions, not talking in terms of violence. The latter only serves to divide and turn off those who might otherwise be open to hearing both sides. The debate on capitalism versus socialism is a very real one today.
Garcia’s claim sent the Montana Republican leadership scrambling to act. At first, a statement was released by the state GOP and a counter-statement was issued by the Montana State Democrats. Both parties denounced Garcia’s remarks on Saturday. Then on Monday, the Speaker of the House sent a letter to Garcia and posted it on Facebook.
Representative Garcia from Billings made some very reckless and un-American comments on Friday 01/31/20. As Speaker of…
Rep. Greg Hertz admits he has no power, as Speaker, to remove Garcia from office. The only vehicle for removal is a recall vote by voters in his district.
Representative Garcia from Billings made some very reckless and un-American comments on Friday 01/31/20. As Speaker of the House and also joined by Majority Leader Tschida and Speaker Pro-tem Galt we have issued the following letter. As Speaker, I have no authority to remove him from office and since we are not in session until January 2021 the Montana House of Representative can take no action. He currently serves on no interim committees. However, he could be recalled by voters in his district.
The letter got right to the point – his immediate resignation is requested.
“Your reckless and un-American remarks are beneath that of a public official and do not represent the values of the Republican Party, Montana House of Representatives or the people of our great state,” House Speaker Greg Hertz, Speaker Pro Tempore E. Wylie Galt and House Majority Leader Brad Tschida wrote in the letter. “Your actions have irreparably undermined the body in which you serve and irrevocably broken the trust of those you were elected to represent. We believe it is clear that you can no longer effectively discharge the duties of the office you hold; therefore, it is our request that you submit your resignation with immediate effect.”
Not long after I wrote the post on Monday, I was texting with one of my sisters. She lives in Billings, the same city as Garcia. She had the same reaction that many Republicans in the room last Friday reportedly had when Garcia first made his remarks – she laughed it off. The state party clearly wants to nip it in the bud and move away from the publicity.
House Majority Leader Brad Tschida notes that this isn’t the first time Garcia has overstepped in his remarks.
“There have been other comments Rodney has made, not nearly as horrifying as this one might have been, that we talked to him about and asked him to really curb his tongue,” Tschida said in a Monday phone interview.
He said that he hasn’t heard directly from Garcia, but that Hertz contacted Garcia about resigning.
Garcia told the AP on Monday he’s not resigning.
“They can ask me to step down, but, no, I don’t think so,” Garcia told The Associated Press. “I’m going to run for the Senate and I’m going to win. People are going to have to eat their words.”
Garcia isn’t going anywhere, at least not now. He’s doubling down and he plans to run for the state senate. The seat is now held by a Democrat.
Garcia will be up for election in November 2020, before the next regular legislative session in 2021. On Friday, Garcia filed for election in Senate District 26.
That office is held by Democrat Margie MacDonald, who first won it in 2016. She previously served four terms in the Montana House.
Rep. Garcia says that Republicans may be calling for his resignation publicly but privately it is another story. No one in the party leadership said anything to him Friday when he made the initial remarks and now he points to threats he is receiving.
Garcia said that party leadership didn’t confront him Friday after the remarks.
“I’m getting my head so big from people saying, ‘Thank you, Rodney, for bringing this up,'” he said. “If people don’t want me in the Senate they can say: ‘Well, I’m not going to vote for ya.’ That’s their prerogative.”
Garcia also told the Associated Press also received some threats.
“They can’t come up to me and talk to me, but they want to shoot me,” Garcia said. “That’s fine, but if you miss, I won’t.”
If there is no allowable action other than a recall vote, it looks like Garcia will remain in office. We’ll see how he does in his senate race.
Montana law allows for recall elections of legislators on the grounds of “physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.” There is no mechanism for legislators to force their colleagues from office.
The House Majority Leader doesn’t expect party leadership to get involved in his race, like fielding a primary opponent.