Meet Eric Garcia, the Disabled Veteran Challenging Devin Nunes in California

California's 22nd congressional district deserves better than Rep. Devin Nunes, says Eric Garcia, a disabled Marine Corps veteran who hopes to challenge the Republican in the 2022 midterms.

Garcia, 33, told Newsweek that his decision to seek the Democratic nomination had been partly prompted by the deadly Capitol riot on January 6 and by Nunes' vote objecting to President Joe Biden's election win.

"I can't find words to describe how I felt," Garcia said of the riot, which left five people dead including a police officer. He pointed to his own military service and the sacrifices made by friends.

Garcia said residents of the 22nd district "deserve better than Nunes."

"Nunes crossed a line," he said. "It's one thing being conservative or liberal, but this is about loving your country."

The veteran said he had been "pushed into politics" when his son came home after an active shooter drill at school and told his father he had had to pretend to be dead while staff wore Halloween masks.

Among Garcia's priorities are health care, the toxic water problem in California's Central Valley and the effects of climate change, he said.

Garcia has drawn links between Nunes' attitude to politics and the problems faced by his constituents, claiming the Republican is more interested in headlines than helping voters.

"He hasn't had a town hall in 11 years," Garcia said. "I've never even heard him mention toxic water."

There are two sides to be on in politics these days: You’re with the domestic terrorists who attacked our democracy, or you’re with America. And we know Devin Nunes didn’t pick America.

— Eric Garcia for Congress (@EricG1247) February 10, 2021

"He hangs out on national news talking about this or that. If you don't know there's a problem, you can't fix the problem. I'd hope as a congressman he would have more resources—he should know."

Reports in local media suggest that Nunes has not attended a town hall meeting in more than a decade.

Newsweek has contacted Nunes' office for comment.

Garcia's criticisms are similar to complaints levelled against Nunes during last year's election, when he faced Phil Arballo. The Democratic challenger lost by 8.4 percentage points and has indicated he may run again next year.

Although Arballo might seem to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination, Garcia has launched an aggressive campaign on social media and his campaign video has had more than 145,000 views on Twitter.

He has emphasized his military service and his disability in his campaign. "Through the VA, I am 100 percent disabled," Garcia told Newsweek. "I've never hidden it. It's part of who I am. To people who have disabilities, I hope I can be a source of inspiration."

Both Arballo and Garcia competed in the non-partisan primary in the 22nd district in March 2020. The Marine Corps veteran, who ran as an independent, won just 2.7 percent of the vote. Nunes took 56.1 percent and Arballo 25 percent.

Nunes has been in Congress since 2003, first representing the state's 21st district and then, when boundaries were redrawn, the 22nd. California will redraw districts again this year, which could give the Democrats a better opportunity to take the seat.

Garcia said he wanted to "make life easier for constituents" and understood local problems.

"My stances resonate with voters," he said. "Who I am and what I've gone through—I have a connection with them."

Marine Corps Veteran Eric Garcia
Marine Corps veteran Eric Garcia hopes to challenge Republican Rep. Devin Nunes in 2022. Eric Garcia for Congress