August 3, 2014

Two Broward Republicans face off in longshot race to challenge Wasserman Schultz

Both candidates also sought the GOP nomination in 2012.

In one of the biggest longshot races in South Florida, two Broward Republicans, Joe Kaufman and Juan Garcia, are competing for the chance to take on U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, has won recent general elections by double-digit percentage margins. Her solid footing in the left-leaning district — and $1.7 million warchest — means that, at best, the Republican victor can hope only to distract her from her national duties.

Kaufman, of Tamarac, has raised $570,000, and Garcia, of Cooper City, has raised about $100,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign financing.

The district includes voters in Broward County south of Interstate 595 and those along the Miami-Dade County coast to Miami Beach. In 2012, both Garcia and Kaufman lost the five-way GOP primary to restaurant owner Karen Harrington.

Kaufman is a pro-Israel activist and self-anointed watchdog of Muslim organizations. Garcia, a native of Puerto Rico, served as a medic in the U.S. Army National Guard before he became a radio morning-show host and business consultant.

Kaufman’s tactics and statements have been challenged by some in his own party. This year, an interviewer from the Tea Party News Network told Kaufman that others have accused him of being “too out there.” That was a reference to the efforts of his group Americans Against Hate, which was parodied on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in 2012.

Kaufman has also drawn fire for an article he wrote after 9/11 in which he said, “We’re spending too much time kissing behinds and dropping food and not enough time dropping bombs. And when I say bombs, I’m not talking about the ‘bottle rockets’ we’ve been launching at the Taliban. … I’m talking about major (and minor) nukes!”

Kaufman told the Miami Herald that he was exaggerating to make the point that “jihadists are not seeking friendship with the West” and that he only wants to use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or if the United States’ existence is in jeopardy.

Kaufman and Garcia agree on some issues. Both are critical of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and in favor of school choice, for example. But they differ on some hot topics: Kaufman is in favor of the state medical marijuana question on the November ballot, while Garcia says he will vote against it. Kaufman does not believe global warming is man-made, despite widespread consensus among scientists, while Garcia believes humans have contributed to it.

Much of Kaufman’s campaign focuses on foreign policy and rooting out terrorism. He mentions “terror” or similar words at least 15 times on the issues page of his website.

Garcia is more broadly focused on an array of issues including jobs, the economy and education.

These differences in terms of the two candidates’ focus can be seen in the comments they make about immigration. Though both say they oppose amnesty and favor improving border security, Kaufman talks about its impact on terrorism while Garcia worries about its impact on the economy.

“We must seal our borders,” Kaufman says on his website, where he also calls for an expansion of the guest-worker program. “The State Department has recognized that a number of terror cells within the United States have been created due to terrorists entering our country through the Mexican border.”

Garcia suggests there could be potential citizenship for those illegal immigrants who commit no other crimes and are paying taxes and contributing to the economy.

“We have to be realistic — we are not going to be able to deport 11 million people — most are hard-working people,” Garcia told the Miami Herald.

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