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Joe Garcia holds swearing-in ceremony in South Florida

At a local swearing-in event on Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia promised to reach across the aisle to solve problems and to protect public investments like his alma mater, Miami Dade College.

Among the newest members of Congress, Garcia was officially sworn in last week in Washington, but a similar ceremony was held on Monday at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus for roughly 300 friends, family members and constituents in South Florida. “I can literally name everybody here, which is a testament to your tenacity,” he said.

Garcia, the first Democratic congressman of Hispanic descent in Florida, will represent the state’s newly drawn 26th Congressional District, which includes southwest Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys.

Garcia took the seat held by Republican David Rivera, whose tenure as a first-term congressman was marked by a series of scandals, including two federal investigations. With 54 percent of the vote, Garcia defeated Rivera, along with two other minor candidates, in November.

Garcia will sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where he expects to be at the center of the debate over immigration.

Closer to home, he said he’s eager to represent the community and the school that helped him achieve his goals. “This college is a testament to what can be accomplished when we make good public investments in our community’s future,” he said.

Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and senator, and former Florida Senate majority leader Alex Villalobos praised Garcia for his bipartisanship and his commitment to his community.

Villalobos, a Republican, praised Garcia’s campaign tactics in particular. Rather than bashing the Republican Party, he said, Garcia focused on listening to his constituents.

“We agree on much more than we disagree,” Villalobos said.

Garcia said Washington needs leaders who come together to solve problems, and he looks forward to working with U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of whom are Republicans.