Garza was the youngest city councilperson elected in Taylor, and went on to win two terms in the state House. Now, in a newly drawn House district, he’s looking to make even more of an impact in southeastern Michigan.
On Election Day, Nov. 8, Michiganders will be voting on a number of policies and candidates—including governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and state Supreme Court, plus three ballot proposals about term limits, voting rights, and reproductive freedom.
MICHIGAN—Meet Rep. Alex Garza, a Democrat running for his third term in the Michigan House of Representatives—this time in the newly renamed 29th District, which includes parts of Taylor, Romulus, Frenchtown and Monroe, all of Huron and Ash townships, and Carleton.
In 2013, when he won a bid for city council, Garza made history as both the youngest and first person of color to be elected to a local office in the city of Taylor. He’s also the youngest Latino ever elected to the state House. If re-elected in November, the 28-year-old would continue to be one of the youngest state Reps in Michigan.
During his tenure, Garza has had success bringing community-serving projects into his district. He’s also developed a reputation for more moderate voting among House Dems.
Garza said there’s much more to be done for the 93,000 blue-collar, working-class people who also call his southeastern Michigan district home. The ‘Gander spoke with him about his top priorities.
Three Things to Know About Alex Garza
- Garza is a strong voice for labor.
Unions, once the backbone of Michigan’s middle class, have fallen on tough times in recent decades. But there’s a comeback happening, with labor unions polling the best they have in more than 50 years, according to Gallup. Michigan is part of that momentum, home to recent labor movements that have captivated national attention.
If Democrats gain back control of the Legislature for the first time since 1983, Garza wants to repeal right-to-work laws—passed under former Gov. Rick Snyder—that have gutted the strength of unions by stripping away incentives to join them.
Garza’s district, which he touts as having the second-highest union membership rates in the state, has reaped the benefits of organized labor over the years: guaranteed health insurance, higher pay, and better job security. So as membership has declined, his district has felt the fallout intimately, Garza said.
That’s a story felt across the country: When union membership is up, there’s less of a gap between the highest earners and everyone else, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
“That’s a big priority for my district: to make sure that we’re supporting working class folks,” Garza said.
But Garza said there are other ways to make a difference for Michigan families as well—not just union members. Another one of his plans: Repeal the retirement tax, which drains 4.25% of retirees’ pensions, and was reinstated by Snyder and the Republican Legislature in 2012. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has named rolling back the retirement tax as one of her priorities, and tried recently to pass the policy over negotiations with Republicans—so, far no dice.
If Garza can hold his seat, which is considered competitive, and Democrats can win three more seats in the House, they’ll have a much better chance of reversing the policy.
“I think we’ve gotten very far away from doing the work of the people,” Garza said. “We have to get back to those kitchen table issues.”
- Garza will work across the aisle.
No two ways about it: Passing legislation has been difficult these past four years during a divisive time.
That’s why Garza said he’s happy to work with those who have different viewpoints to help move Michigan forward. He picked up endorsements from the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Farm Bureau PAC, which tend to pick Republican candidates.
“It just goes to show exactly how the relationships I’ve built over time with these organizations really transcend any partisan boundaries,” Garza explained.
Despite being a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Legislature, Garza has worked across the aisle to secure grants and loans for local businesses within his district. He also helped bring in $500,000 for the local fire department, and money to support youth sports in Taylor. Garza also locked in $1 million in federal infrastructure funding to repair sidewalks in Romulus.
Garza said the most rewarding projects for him are those that bring the district together. Among them was a memorial highway dedication along I-75 for US Army Specialist Holly McGeogh, who at 19 years old, became the first female soldier from Michigan to die in the Iraq War in 2004. She’s remembered in Taylor as a hero.
“Our community came together for that,” Garza told The ‘Gander. “We had a large gathering at the Taylor Veterans Museum and everyone came together. Whether you were Democrat, Republican, independent, we all came together to contribute to her family.”
- Garza is taking up issues that are important to his community.
There’s an important rule in Garza’s office: Any call or email from a constituent receives a response within 24 hours.
“We’ve held consistent with that for the four years I’ve been in office,” Garza said.
In recent months, Garza championed a bill through the Legislature that’s designed to give airport police more freedom in seizing assets from people suspected of hauling drugs. With the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in his current district, that’s something that directly impacts his constituents. And while some critics have opposed it on grounds that it gives police too much leeway, Garza held his ground.
Whitmer signed the bill into law in June.
“What they get with me is a legislator who is responsive and cares about their needs. We get a legislator who is passing legislation that’s meaningful for constituents,” Garza explained. “I always tell folks, every bill that I’ve passed has been ideas from my constituents.”
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