A Republican political newcomer looking to unseat Democratic Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia is quickly gaining the support of his party. Jeff Gonzalez, a Marine veteran and pastor, has received the endorsements of both the Imperial Valley Republican Party and the Riverside County Central Committee for California’s 56th State Assembly seat.

“I’m honored the Republican Party has put its faith in me to represent them in this election,” Gonzalez said in a prepared statement. “It sends a strong message that this election is important enough to get behind one candidate. I’m the one candidate who will hold Eduardo Garcia accountable and work for the families of the 56th District.”

A second Republican, Jonathan Reiss of Bermuda Dunes, is also challenging Garcia in the June 5 Primary. Reiss has lived in California for the past 35 years and has been a resident of the 56th Assembly District since 1999.

In 1994, at age of 19, Gonzalez joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Gonzalez gained upper-level management experience, served in numerous Counterintelligence posts and was an active participant and operations manager supporting U.S. and Coalition Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. As head of the Marine Corps Crisis Response Center, Gonzalez provided direct support to more than 12,000 deployed service members.

Gonzalez was called to the ministry as a volunteer at Saddleback Church and later as the Outreach Pastor at Southwest Church.  In 2017, Gonzalez began work with the Integrated Recovery Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on recovery programs for women veterans who suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Garcia was mayor of Coachella before being elected to the Assembly in 2014. He handily won re-election in 2016.

The 56th Assembly District encompasses all of the Imperial Valley and parts of the Coachella Valley, or about 13 percent of Riverside County. The district is primarily rural and heavily Latino. Coachella Valley communities in the district are Bermuda Dunes, Blythe, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Center, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Mecca, Thermal, and Thousand Palms.