This congressional race, pitting two political enemies, has been the most contentious, and gives voters a clear if not endearing choice.
Currently serving District 25 in Congress, Rep. David Rivera, a Republican, is running in newly redrawn District 26, which goes from the Florida Keys north to Kendall in Miami-Dade County and leans more toward independents and Democrats.
Rep. Rivera is facing Democrat Joe Garcia, who lost to him in 2010, and two other candidates with no party affiliation, Jose Peixoto and Angel Fernandez. The real race is between Rep. Rivera and Mr. Garcia.
In the Democratic Party Primary in August, The Editorial Board did not recommend Mr. Garcia, who has run twice for Congress and lost. We had hoped that Gloria Romero Roses, a businesswoman and first-time candidate, would capture the votes as a fresh and moderate voice, but Mr. Garcia’s former work as head of Miami-Dade County’s Democratic Party paid off in that election.
Rep. Rivera, 47, for his part, can’t seem to steer clear of controversy and political intrigue — indeed, he seems to relish it. Two years ago, we did not support his first run for Congress because, among other things, he would not release documentation to clarify a consulting contract, raising legitimate concerns about transparency and honesty. His first term in Congress has been marred by controversy after controversy dating back to his years as a legislator.
An 18-month investigation concluded in April that Rep. Rivera exploited a state campaign finance law to live the high life with $175,000 in Republican contributors’ money as a state GOP committeeman — legal but surely unethical behavior.
A separate investigation involved Mr. Rivera working as a “political strategist” for a Miami-Dade County gambling initiative when he was in the Legislature. Gambling interests gave a company created by Mr. Rivera’s mother $500,000, and state investigators tracked at least $100,000 back to him. In amended filings he later called it a loan. Prosecutors concluded a two-year statute of limitations and lax state campaign finance laws precluded them from filing charges.
Mr. Rivera still faces an IRS investigation into his finances. Plus, Mr. Rivera has been embroiled in another intrigue involving a stealth candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, a $30,000 a year hotel worker who mysteriously loaned himself almost twice his annual salary to run as a Democrat against Mr. Garcia. At least two campaign vendors have told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald that FBI agents interviewed them about Mr. Sternad’s campaign, and that a political consultant close to Rep. Rivera, Ana Alliegro, acted as a conduit between Mr. Sternad and Rep. Rivera to steer secret money to Mr. Sternad’s campaign.
All of this can make any voter’s head spin. Mr. Rivera maintains he has had nothing to do with Mr. Sternad and that no federal agency has publicly stated he is under investigation. What’s clear is that Mr. Rivera carries too much political baggage to be an effective member of Congress.
Mr. Garcia, 49, is too much of a verbal bomb thrower, a reflection of his work as a Democratic Party stalwart. What this district needs most is a consensus-builder. If elected, Mr. Garcia, a lawyer who has worked on energy and environmental issues, must do better.
With no other choices in the U.S. House, District 26, The Herald recommends JOE GARCIA.