Montana lawmaker rejects resigning over socialism comments

AP National News

This March 27, 2014 photo shows Rep. Rodney Garcia, R-Billings. Garcia on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, rejected legislative leaders’ call for his resignation over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot. House leaders called the remarks he made Friday “inflammatory” and “deeply disturbing” and called for him to resign immediately. Garcia has filed to run for a seat in the state Senate. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette via AP)

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana lawmaker on Monday rejected legislative leaders’ call for his resignation over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot.

Republican Rep. Rodney Garcia of Billings, responding to the letter by the three leaders of his own political party, said the “only way I would give my resignation is if God asked me to.”

Garcia made his original comments at a Republican gathering in Helena on Friday, saying he was worried about socialists entering the government, according to Lee Newspapers of Montana.

He stood by those comments on Saturday and again on Monday, saying socialism — which he called “pretty much communism” — is dangerous. He could not cite which part of the Constitution supports his claims.

“They have to be tried, and if they’re found guilty,” they can be jailed or shot, Garcia said. “But more than likely they would never be shot because we just don’t do that in today’s society. We’re supposed to be civilized.”

Speaker of the House Greg Hertz, Speaker Pro Tempore E. Wylie Galt and House Majority Leader Brad Tschida wrote to Garcia on Monday, calling the “inflammatory remarks” he made Friday “deeply disturbing” and stating that Garcia refused a request from Hertz to retract the comments.

“Your reckless and un-American remarks are beneath that of a public official and do not represent the values of the Republican Party, Montana House of Representatives or the people of our great state,” the leadership wrote. “Your actions have irreparably undermined the body in which you serve and irrevocably broken the trust of those you were elected to represent. We believe it is clear that you can no longer effectively discharge the duties of the office you hold; therefore, it is our request that you submit your resignation with immediate effect.”

Garcia told The Associated Press that he won’t resign. But he won’t be returning to the state House next year, either. He said he filed to run for the state Senate on Friday, a decision that had nothing to do with the response to his comments.

“They can ask me to step down, but, no, I don’t think so,” Garcia told The Associated Press. “I’m going to run for the Senate and I’m going to win. People are going to have to eat their words.”

Hertz, Galt and Tschida were at the Republican gathering on Friday and they didn’t say anything to him, Garcia alleged, nor did Spenser Merwin, the executive director of the Montana Republican Party who condemned his comments on Saturday.

“I’m getting my head so big from people saying, ‘Thank you, Rodney, for bringing this up,’” he said. “If people don’t want me in the Senate they can say: ‘Well, I’m not going to vote for ya.’ That’s their prerogative.”

Garcia said he’s also received some threats.

“They can’t come up to me and talk to me, but they want to shoot me,” Garcia said. “That’s fine, but if you miss, I won’t.”

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