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Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, was named a Republican National Committee Rising Star this month. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent))

Elected at 23

Salem's Rep. Garcia named Republican rising star

SALEM - During her high school and college years, Marilinda Garcia was an active volunteer with the Republican Party, but the thought of running for office had never really crossed her mind.

Last week, she was named a Republican National Committee Rising Star.

Garcia's political career began in June 2006, when someone suggested she give it a try.

"I was working part time and wanted to get involved with a campaign for the upcoming November election," the Salem resident said Friday. "But until that point, I had only thought about working on someone else's campaign."

Conceding the prospect "was a bit daunting at first," Garcia began pounding the pavement.

"I figured I could handle the rudimentary aspects of campaigning. I did a lot of door-knocking," she said with a laugh. "Fortunately, New Hampshire is a citizen legislature and running a campaign costs a fairly modest amount. So fundraising isn't a huge impediment to attaining public office."

Her days of "working on someone else's campaign" were soon a fond memory; Garcia was elected to the N.H. House of Representatives the following November. She was 23 years old.

The Harvard- and Tufts-educated daughter of an Italian-American mother and Spanish-American father, Garcia currently serves on the House Finance Committee and previously served on the committees of finance, children and family law, election law and legislative administration, was a co-chairman of a House caucus and a majority whip.

Now on her fourth term, her work has resonated with constituents and party officials alike.

Aimed at promoting Republicans who give fresh voices to the party, the new Rising Star program gives those selected the chance to share their perspectives.

Garcia was one of four people selected as this year's stars. Also honored were Karin Agness, president of the Network of Enlightened Women; Scott Erickson, Heritage Foundation writer and San Jose, Calif., police officer; and T.W. Shannon, speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"It's an honor to be selected for this inaugural group," said Garcia, who said she's excited about the prospect of having a wider platform from which to communicate "a conservative message of opportunity and prosperity through personal responsibility, individual freedom, economic freedom and limited government."

"These are the things that make our country remarkable, and we need to maintain them," she added.

This term, Garcia said, she's been working on a bill relative to medical care price transparency. "It's being worked on by a Health and Human Services subcommittee over the summer, and I hope something positive will result from that," she said. "It would be wonderful if our state could be a leader in ensuring that health care consumers know what they are paying for and hopefully have value tied to each dollar."

She believes the Granite State seems to have fared better than many other states as it emerges from the recession, but at the same time "we still have many challenges ahead."

Those challenges include "underemployment and unemployment, ever-increasing taxes, uncertainties surrounding problems with the Affordable Health Care Act and Medicaid expansion, the breakdown of the family structure and brain drain, to name a few."

"I think it's imperative we diversify our economy to ensure long-term financial stability," she added.

Garcia has worked as a court appointed special advocate for abused/neglected children and as an adjunct music professor at Phillips Exeter Academy, St. Paul's School and Gordon College, among other things. She serves on the Executive Board of Americans by Choice, a group dedicated to immigration reform.

Asked whether she has aspirations for higher political office, Garcia said she "never had specific or any long-term political ambitions, or a particular trajectory in mind."

Whatever the future brings, she's hoping her path will remain in New Hampshire.

"It would be a blessing to still live in this lovely state 10 years from now," Garcia said, "hopefully, with some children."

An accomplished harp player who studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, Garcia encouraged other young people not to shy away from their dreams but to always remain humble.

"Don't be a know-it-all," she advised. "Remember, it's nice to be considered important, but it's more important to be nice."

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