Heading into the GOP primary for U.S. Congress, New Hampshire state representative Marilinda Garcia has been racking up endorsements by influential Republicans and conservatives.
But the most significant, and symbolic, show of support will be on display on Sunday, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will be in New Hampshire to stomp for her.
The primary, to be held on Tuesday, will determine who runs against the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, in November.
“I’m proud to support Marilinda Garcia,” Cruz said in a statement that was released by Garcia’s campaign, “because she is the candidate who will fight to stop President Obama’s amnesty, work to secure the border, and celebrate a legal immigration system that both protects immigrants and our national security interests.”
For Garcia, who brands herself a conservative, getting the blessing of Cruz is an achievement.
The 31-year-old state representative was not initially fully embraced by Republicans in her pursuit of the House seat. They saw her chief competitor, former state Sen. Gary Lambert, who is a moderate, as a safer bet and more electable in the Democrat-leaning 2nd District. (Former state Rep. Jim Lawrence is also running in the GOP primary.)
But Garcia, noted for her firm but smooth delivery of Tea Party stances, was showcased last year by the National Republican Campaign Committee as a “Rising Star” honoree.
“If anyone in politics can make impeachment and a repeal of Obamacare sound pleasant, it's Marilinda Garcia,” said a USA Today article. “The New Hampshire congressional candidate speaks gently, even sweetly, whether she's ripping into President Obama and his administration.”
Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, a Republican, headlined a fundraiser for Garcia that featured prominent Hispanic GOP members. New Hampshire’s conservative newspaper, the Union Leader, endorsed her. Then there’s the powerful anti-tax group Club for Growth, which released a six-figure ad buy for Garcia on cable and broadcast television.
And now, there’s Ted Cruz.
Published reports note that Kuster may not be the shoo-in some might have thought earlier.
“A very conservative candidate in a Democratic-leaning district could do well,” Dante Scala, an expert on state politics and an associate professor at the University of New Hampshire, was quoted as saying in OZY.
But many observers still think it could be a tight race.
Garcia, who was elected to the state legislature at the age of 23, is not taking anything for granted.
In a debate on Wednesday, Garcia said her primary race opponents are either ignorant or lying about immigration, health care or other issues.
During the debate, Garcia and Lawrence seized multiple chances to criticize each other's records at the Statehouse. And afterward, Garcia refused to shake hands with Lambert.
During the debate, Lawrence said such bickering makes "people sick and tired of the political process," but he readily joined in when the topic turned to immigration, echoing a Lambert campaign ad that accuses Garcia of backing amnesty for millions of people in the U.S. illegally.
Garcia said she opposes amnesty and always has.
"Anybody in this country, be they illegal, be they going through the process legally, are not necessarily citizens, yet they have some sort of legal status ... because we are a nation of laws," she said. "Legal status does not mean citizenship. Amnesty and legalization are different things, and if these two gentlemen would like to remain ignorant on that issue, I suggest they do their homework."
In a lighter moment, the three named different features of New Hampshire that they like best.
Lawrence called the state's landscape one of its "greatest treasures," while Garcia mentioned its geographic diversity and four seasons. Lambert's answer also involved the outdoors, but more than just appreciating scenery.
He said the best thing about the state was deer hunting.
Garcia serves on the executive board of the immigration reform group Americans by Choice.
She earned her bachelors from Tufts University in 2006, as well as a Bachelors from the New England Conservatory of Music. She then went to Harvard, where she received a Master of Public Policy in 2010.
She is a recipient of the National Foundation for Women Legislators’ “Integrative Healthcare Pioneer Award” and the Disruptivate! “Innovation in Healthcare” Award. She was honored as one of the Republican Security Council’s “45 Most Influential Women under 45.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.