He’s made up his mind: Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia will run for Congress again this year, the Miami Democrat announced Wednesday. He will seek his old seat, which has been redrawn to now include more Democrats.
“We did great things when we were in Congress and I want to continue work on the issues that matter to South Florida, because we deserve better,” Garcia said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “We deserve quality jobs that pay a living wage, lower college tuition, action on climate change, and comprehensive immigration reform.”
Garcia lost his swing Westchester-to-Key West seat in an off-year election when fewer Democrats go to the polls. Running in a presidential year — and in a redrawn district that comfortably favored President Barack Obama in 2012 — Garcia hopes to have better luck, assuming he wins the primary.
Another Democrat, Annette Taddeo, who was Charlie Crist’s running mate in the 2014 Florida governor’s race, is already in the race. To stem off Garcia’s impending challenge, her campaign spent the last month bringing in big Democratic names to host fundraisers and rolling out notable endorsements, including from former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, whose son used to work for Garcia’s congressional district office, and the Service Employees International Union, a major past Garcia supporter.
“As a member of Congress I will fight to raise the minimum wage, bring jobs back to our communities, ensure equal pay for women and to strengthen our schools,” Taddeo said in a statement. “This is what our communities deserve, but sadly the 26th District has instead endured a series of politicians who've put self-interest first, acted unethically, and at times even acted illegally.
“It’s time to turn a new page in South Florida.”
Garcia defeated the Democratic establishment when he won in 2012. That year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had recruited a businesswoman to carry the party banner, and he defeated her handily.
Garcia had made recent moves to launch a candidacy, despite declaring less than a year ago, “I am not running for any public office.” He quit his job in a Miami Beach investment bank in December and had confidants over the last few weeks call past supporters to gauge their interest in backing him again.
A third possible candidate, Andrew Korge, son of local Hillary Clinton donor Chris Korge, said Wednesday that he would run for the Florida Senate this year instead, clearing the way for a Garcia-Taddeo Democratic primary — a potentially bruising and expensive race national Democrats had hoped to avoid.
Garcia served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2012-14, before losing to Republican Carlos Curbelo, who campaigned on his integrity after Garcia’s former chief of staff had gone to jail for orchestrating an unlawful absentee-ballot request scheme.
The former chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, has since also pleaded guilty in a separate, federal case involving the secret financing of a ringer 2010 tea-party candidate. The statute of limitations in that case has now expired; Joe Garcia was never charged or accused of wrongdoing.
While out of office, Miami-Dade County Democrats tried to recruit Garcia to run for county mayor, and Florida Democrats tried to persuade him to run for the state Senate. He dismissed both ideas.
In his statement, Garcia took a shot at Curbelo and House Republicans who “have given us political attacks on Planned Parenthood and endless Benghazi investigations.”
“I want to go back to Congress and get to work on making a real difference for the families and workers of South Florida,” he said in his statement, citing his work in office on cutting student-loan rates, funding Everglades restoration and requiring federal government investment in job-training programs. “The Democratic voters of the 26th district know me well, and I am confident I will have their support.”