FILE – Candidate Benny Garcia

Sunnyside resident Benancio Garcia III stands with a commendation he received after a Cinco De Mayo mass shooting in Sunnyside last May. Garcia said his military training made him run toward the danger and he ended up provided one of the five victims with emergency medical care, remaining with the man until the scene was secure and the ambulance arrived. 

(The Center Square) – Benancio “Benny” Garcia III has accused the Washington State Republican Party of suppressing the Latino vote that favors him in the Fourth Congressional District race.

“They broke trust and that’s going to affect the turnout for this election,” Garcia told The Center Square.

What happened, he alleges, is that Latino Strikforce coordinated with the WSRP to utilize its phone system to power dial calls to multiple prospective voters at one time. Garcia lined up volunteers to survey people who answered and created a voice message urging those who didn’t pick up to support his candidacy.

“Over 10,000 calls were made, and they switched the voicemail from support candidate Benancio Garcia for Congress to (support) WSRP,” said Garcia. “This is going to have a huge impact."

WSRP Chair Caleb Heimlich told The Center Square that Garcia misunderstood how the system works. He said the party allows candidates to use its phone system at no charge to boost voter turnout, but the voice message must be generic to comply with Federal Election Commission rules.

“We are not endorsing any one candidate in this race so we can’t have a message going out that gives that appearance,” he said.

Heimlich said candidates can pay for a custom phone service that charges by the minute but allows them to personalize calls. However, he said Garcia elected to use the GOP system, which must be uniform.

"There was certainly no effort to suppress the Hispanic vote or the candidate,” he said.

Garcia is the only minority candidate among six GOP contenders for the seat that has been held by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse since 2014. Garcia’s background not only includes Latino heritage, but Black and Native American ethnicity as well.

“I bring a lot of flavor,” he said.

According to Garcia, Latinos make up 40% of the population in the district that covers the counties of Douglas, Okanogan, Grant, Yakima, Franklin, Benton, and Adams, and part of Walla Walla County.

“My commitment to the diverse members of our community remains strong,” he said.

He said no matter what Heimlich and official Republicans do to support Newhouse, people are ready for change. With record gas prices, high inflation and a national debt topping $40 trillion, he said the country clearly needs new leadership.

He pointed out that Newhouse was among 10 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump in January of 2020 even through the deep-red district strongly supports the former president.

“There was no due process, there were no constitutional grounds for that vote, which shows you how far he has strayed from representing the people who sent him to D.C.,” said Garcia.

“Whether I win this Congressional race or the next one, I am going to win and truly represent ‘We, the People,'" he said. "I took an oath to support and defend this great country and my enlistment may have ended, but that oath still stands. It’s a promise.”

Garcia, 50, was born and raised in the Yakima Valley, graduating from Sunnyside High School in 1990. He is the only combat veteran in the race, describing himself as a “third generation warrior and proud patriot."

“I am a constitutional conservative, and my motto is ‘God, Family, Country,’” he said. “I fought for this country in Iraq and I fought for integrity in my community as city treasurer, and now I want to fight for our way of life in Washington, D.C.” 

Like Newhouse, Garcia and his family reside in Sunnyside. He and his wife Marisela are raising two children.

His decision to join the Washington National Guard in 1996 at the age of 25 was made out of practical necessity. “I needed gas money while going to school," he said.

Then 9/11 happened and Garcia withdrew from Central Washington University to do his part to prevent future terror attacks against America. His family has a military lineage, so he felt that was the right call.

He deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the 81st Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis and was part of an Abrams tanker crew. 

Nine months after he left the states, Garcia returned with injuries that left him with a disabled right hand.

When he completed his enlistment, Garcia went to work as a loan specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program.

He holds a Law and Justice degree and is working on his master’s.

“I’ve been blessed, the Lord has favored me in every way,” said Garcia.

By 2015, Garcia was alarmed enough that America seemed to “headed down the road of third-world countries” with growing support for Marxist ideology that he began to think about running for an office.

He said the incumbent bears some responsibility for out-of-control spending that is threatening America’s economy, and for policies that undermine constitutional protections.

“My heart belongs to this country,” said Garcia. “I was born and raised here and I’ll defend this piece of dirt, this home, until I got nothing left.”

Garcia is not only facing off with Newhouse in the Aug. 2 primary, but also Republicans Jerrod Sessler, Jacek Kobiesa, Brad Klippert, Loren Culp and Corey Gibson. The lone Democratic contender is Doug White.

Newhouse did not respond to requests for comment.

The two candidates with the most votes will move forward to the Nov. 8 general election.

Staff Reporter

RaeLynn Ricarte is the author of two books and an award-winning editor and reporter with more than 25 years in the newsroom. She now covers government in Eastern Washington for The Center Square.