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An Apology for Her Hot Remark

October 17, 2006|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) caused a political ruckus when she told a classroom of La Quinta High School seniors that she wouldn't kick Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger out of her bed.

Garcia, 44, made the remark Oct. 10 while she was speaking to an economics class, shortly before she was scheduled to appear before the school's Young Republican Club.

Garcia, who is in a tight race for reelection, had been the object of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ethnically charged remark regarding her "very hot" Latina temperament -- a comment for which the governor later apologized. Garcia, who is Puerto Rican, was quick to defend the governor, and he has supported her campaign.

In a prepared statement, Garcia on Sunday apologized for the remark and called the controversy a politically motivated, personal attack by a school employees union that supports her opponent, former Democratic Assemblyman Steve Clute of Palm Desert.

She also called the attack sexist, saying her comments were "only an issue because I am a woman."

"If anyone was offended by the silly questions asked and the joking answers I gave, I sincerely apologize," Garcia said in the statement. "If something truly offensive occurred, why did the adults in the room not stop the discussion ... or contact my office in the days following my visit?"

La Quinta Principal Donna Salazar said both aides told her about Garcia's comments the day after the visit. Salazar said the teacher had described Garcia's comment as "a lighthearted, off-the-cuff remark."

"He didn't believe it was a big deal," she said.

Clute called her apology "halfhearted and days late."

"When you're on a high school campus, you don't make those kind of comments," he said.

Garcia is running for her third term in the 80th Assembly District, which includes the Coachella Valley and Imperial County. The district is dominated by Democrats, and she faces a tough challenger in Clute, who served in the Legislature from 1982 to 1992.

The incident at the high school wasn't the first time one of Garcia's comments raised eyebrows.

While introducing a resolution about breast cancer in September 2003, Garcia told the Assembly that she thought she had "nice" breasts. She made the comment as she described her fear that she might have breast cancer. Garcia found out later that she didn't have it. "I happened to think I have a pretty nice set, and I wanted to keep them," she said.

On the Assembly floor in June 2005, Garcia also told colleagues that she had put an extra pair of underwear in her desk drawer and was prepared to work all night during a marathon legislative session around budget time.

Garcia was at the high school last week to speak to the Young Republicans Club during the lunch hour and decided to talk with the economics class when she arrived a few minutes early.

When students asked her what the governor was like, she remarked that she wouldn't kick Schwarzenegger out of her bed.

Richard Harmon, Garcia's spokesman, said that although the assemblywoman didn't tell him the exact words she used, "I think those were along the lines of what she said."

Harmon described the comment as "part of the back and forth with the students. They were asking silly questions. It was part of banter they were having in class," he said.

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sara.lin@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Nancy Vogel contributed to this report.

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