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Billings lawmaker says shooting socialists comment was "well-received joke"

Posted at 12:06 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 19:42:00-05

BILLINGS - Montana Republican Rodney Garcia said Monday he will not resign his House seat representing the Billings Southside.

The House District 52 representative confirmed his stance in a letter to Q2 on Monday.

Republican leaders in the Montana House asked Garcia to resign after comments earlier this month where he said socialists should “go to prison” or be shot.

In the letter, Garcia said his comments were a “well-received joke.”

Billings lawmaker says he won't resign after saying socialists should be shot

Garcia will be leaving his House seat at the end of the term to seek a state Senate nomination, filing to run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Margie MacDonald in Senate District 46.

First, he will face a primary challenge against former Billings City Council member Chris Friedel, who filed to run against Garcia as a Republican last Thursday.

In an interview Monday, Garcia said he didn’t regret making the comments.

“You know why? I’m getting more positive response from people saying, ‘Thank you. You know, we didn’t know our country was at risk,’" Garcia said. "I improperly made a statement saying - ‘Either we can shoot them, or put him in prison.’ And I have a right to say what I want, according to the constitution...freedom of speech. And so I said that. But you know, everyone laughed so loud, I couldn’t even think of what I was saying.”

Montana Speaker of the House Greg Hertz released a statement on Garcia's refusal to resign.

"While we are disappointed by Rep. Garcia’s refusal to do the right thing and resign, the fact is he is a lame duck legislator and the cost of a special session is simply too great," he said. "The voters will now decide his fate in the June primary."

Garcia’s comments made international news, including stories in the Washington Post, New York Times, the Guardian and other publications.