Assembly candidate Cristina Garcia, a leading activist in the fight against corruption in the City of Bell, has acknowledged not having a doctoral degree as stated on her campaign literature and website.
In a undated written statement, Garcia says she has not received yet a doctorate in public administration from the University of Southern California. She asks voters for forgiveness.
“In my campaign literature for state assembly, I stated that I have a PhD from USC,” said Garcia in a written statement. “While I have finished all of my course work, I technically am only a PhD candidate. I have yet to finish the final process of my PhD, which is defending my dissertation. I will fulfill that final responsibility in the near future.
“As such, I take full responsibility for using the term PhD instead of PhD candidate in my campaign literature. For that I humbly apologize and ask for the forgiveness and understanding of all the voters of the 58th Assembly District.”
Garcia, a resident of Bell Gardens, said that she “completed all my required class work and took my qualifying exams to receive my PhD in Public Administration for the University of Southern California. I completed my dissertation in 2010. My dissertation included a more than one hundred pages thesis detailing social barriers that discourage volunteerism among women in the United States. Woman participating in public service is something near and dear to my heart.”
Garcia also made available a digital copy of her transcripts from USC. Dated June 1, 2012, the documents show she finished her last class in 2008.
By Friday, Garcia’s official campaign site still listed a doctoral degree: “Garcia was raised in the Southeast Los Angeles community of Bell Gardens and attended local schools. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Pomona College, two Masters Degrees from Claremont Graduate University and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and a PhD from USC.”
So far Garcia’s official campaign Internet site and social networks sites have been silent about the doctoral degree controversy.
But in an e-mail sent by the public relations firm Centaur North hired by Garcia, spokesman Leo Briones said, “The statement speaks for itself and provides all relevant details. This is our final comment regarding this matter.”
Garcia has been expected to win the election in a district where Democrats comprise little more than half of the registered voters. The district covers Artesia, Bell Gardens, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello and Pico Rivera.
It is not clear what impact the revelation could have on the imminent November elections.
But Patricia Kotze-Ramos, a Republican and businesswoman from Downey, has already questioned Garcia’s integrity.
“It isn’t good that she lied,” said Kotze-Ramos. “She lied about an education of the highest degree.” She added that some voters have told her they feel Garcia lied to succeed in the June primaries.
“She didn’t have to lie,” said Kotze-Ramos. “She could have just said that she was a candidate for a Ph.D.”
Garcia was a leading activist with the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, BASTA, that successfully worked to recall councilmembers and have other top city officials fired in the City of Bell after an corruption expose by the Los Angeles Times in 2010.
But not everyone gives Garcia credit for the changes that have taken place in Bell.
“She’s a big liar,” said Bell Councilman Nestor Valencia. “She did nothing to undo the corruption here in Bell.” Regarding the election for Assembly District 58th, Valencia added, “As Democrats, we don’t need liars in Sacramento.” He also said he was not endorsing any of the two candidates running in that district.