Yet the younger Barreiro, who is married and has two children, said he never saw himself as a candidate for office until 1992, when he noticed Tallahassee legislators involved in a healthcare debate were largely lawyers without firsthand experience in the industry. Barreiro, who attended the University of Miami for two years before leaving to work in his fathers HMO, ran for the state House as a Republican and won. He remained in the Legislature for six years before jumping to the county commission.
Of his years on the county board, Barreiro says hes proudest of promoting constituent services and pushing for the half-penny sales tax to fund transportation projects. He also touts, among other things, legislation giving property owners a tax break for building a home addition to house elderly relatives and creating the Golden Passport, which allows seniors to ride Miami-Dade transit for free.
Garcia, a 66-year-old widower, is seeking a commission spot also after six years in Tallahassee. But his political origins lie in Miami Beach, where he was a firefighter, fire chief and city commissioner.
He grew up dreaming of being an architect and serving in the U.S. Air Force. But Garcia, who arrived in Miami from Cuba when he was 14, was not yet a citizen when he graduated from high school. And he eloped at 20 and had three sons by 24 circumstances that kept him from the military and from being a full-time student. Instead, he worked in a grocery store and drove a Pepsi truck while taking night classes at Miami Dade College before he eventually joined the Miami Beach Fire Department.
The highlights of his city commission tenure, Garcia said, include raising fire-safety standards at Miami Beach Senior High School, broadening rights for domestic partners and banning discrimination against transgender people. In Tallahassee, Garcia was known for his feisty ways as part of the Democratic minority in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Barreiro and Garcia, who are not particularly friendly with each other, disagree on a variety of issues. Barreiro generally supports gambling; Garcia generally does not. Garcia favors two four-year term limits for commissioners; Barreiro does not.
And while Barreiro was the commission chairman who fought for the Miami Marlins new Little Havana ballpark in his district, Garcia criticizes the stadium financing deal for relying mostly on public dollars.
Sitting in his campaign headquarters across the street from Fatima Home Care, the family business where his district office is located, Barreiro defended the financing deal, citing other projects such as the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and AmericanAirlines Arena that also received public funding.
I dont see a backlash for the stadium, with all due respect, from the people, from the district, he said. There had to be substantial public funding for a stadium.
When the issue came up at The Heralds editorial board, Garcia scoffed and criticized the Marlins for not being more open with the county and the public: They never opened the books.
Barreiro also stands by his vote two years ago to raise the county property-tax rate the vote that triggered the recall effort against him and other county officials, including former Mayor Carlos Alvarez.
The vote came after a majority of commissioners voted for union contracts that included pay hikes for police officers. Barreiro was one of two commissioners opposing the contracts. But after they had been approved, he said, he couldnt in good conscience oppose the subsequent tax-rate increase because having to pay for the contracts without more taxes would have resulted in service cuts.
I would take that vote [again] today, a choked-up Barreiro told the editorial board.
Last month, Barreiro voted against Mayor Carlos Gimenezs proposed tax-rate reduction not because he wants a higher rate, Barreiro said, but because he would have liked proposed cost savings to come from different places in the budget the fire department rather than libraries, for example.
Garcia, who says he would be more qualified to vote on the county budget from his years as fire chief preparing his departments budget, said Gimenezs overall proposal goes in the right direction.
I dont agree with everything he does, but I respect him, Garcia said of Gimenez. I think I could work with him.