Anne Dunsmore has been a political consultant and fundraiser for 42 years. She has worked thousands of campaign events for candidates aspiring to offices ranging from local posts to the highest one in the land.
She said she has never seen what is happening with Mike Garcia.
“Even I find it unusual,” she said.
Whereas other candidates typically get 25-50 people show to an event, 110 attended Garcia’s fundraiser Friday at Valencia Country Club as he seeks to win the 25th congressional district seat.
Whereas candidates in other races Dunsmore’s handling are struggling to raise money, those 110 people forked over $15,000, she said, with more expected. She said that’s because people committed to the $100 entry fee but then gave more.
Whereas many candidates are worn out and need a push when it’s a month away from the primary, it’s Garcia who’s doing the pushing, Dunsmore said.
Whereas most candidates don’t even do direct-mail requests in a contested primary, Dunsmore said, Garcia has 9,000 contributions.
“He’s real. He’s driven. He’s energetic,” Dunsmore said. “We’re not dragging him around. He’s dragging everyone else around. He’s the fastest study of any candidate I’ve ever worked with.”
Last week, Garcia attended not only the event at Valencia, but also events in Acton and Simi Valley that raised a total of $75,000. Dunsmore said the campaign typically grosses between $5,000 and $25,000 at any one event, although once at former Rep. Elton Gallegly’s house, the donors combined for $85,000, which she considers an anomaly that won’t repeat.
But it doesn’t matter because Dunsmore can spot the excitement.
“I can tell you they’re not typical,” she said of the events. “It’s ridiculous.”
To clarify, this was a campaign event, so it followed a structure. People milled about, sipped alcohol, nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, socialized and checked out the table that had $25 shirts and hats – or bought some. They listened to special guest Howard “Buck” McKeon, who represented the area in Congress for 12 years, and Garcia speak.
McKeon said typical campaign things such as “This is important” and “We need a (congressional) majority.” He also extolled the virtues of the president and requested everyone get out and talk up Garcia.
Garcia stressed the national importance of this race, how this election is “a choice of stupendous magnitude,” credited Donald Trump, explained why he’s running (“so this country doesn’t turn into California,”) and what he stands for (a wall, strong military and strong border patrols, making the Trump tax cuts permanent). He mentioned the “headwinds and undercurrents” he and the Republicans face, and stressed his four C’s (Constitution, capitalism, competition, charity).
People cheered Trump and booed when Garcia name-checked former Rep. Katie Hill and current Democratic candidate Christy Smith. And they gave Garcia a standing ovation when he finished.
“I am the new breed of conservative Republican,” he declared. “This isn’t about Democrat versus Republican. This is about right versus wrong.”
The crowd, mostly older and white but with African Americans, Latinos and Asians also present, were there because they believe in Garcia.
“He’s genuine,” volunteer Rick Barker said. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘My God, he does not sound like a politician. He actually answered my question.’ ”
Thomas Cadman, a banker who served in the Army, said he remembered the first Garcia event he attended: a pizza party on Lyons Avenue. Between 50 and 60 people attended. “Each time I came to these events, they’re getting bigger,” he said. “A lot of new faces.”
Some attendees took shots at former Rep. Steve Knight, who’s also running. Don Williams said he “hit the pavement for Steve Knight and Dante Acosta” but now finds Knight “wishy-washy” and “not a solid Republican.”
Dave McKean, a Garcia volunteer who coordinates with churches, was a Knight supporter who thought Knight “left his conservative principles and went with the Establishment. My sense is he’s like Hillary (Clinton): He’s entitled.”
Victoria Redgtall, born in Surrey, England, lives in Valencia but is registered to vote in Toluca Lake, acknowledged Knight has more name recognition than Garcia, “but (Knight) lost the district.”
Even McKeon seemed aware something was different. “I’ve done a lot of events in this room, but I never had a crowd like this,” he told the audience.
As unusual as Dunsmore finds this, she no longer is surprised.
“The response is due to him,” she said. “It’s our job to expand on it.”