Joe Garcia is working hard to get his seat back. The catch is, he’s got a few opponents to beat along the way who also want to serve the voters of Florida’s 26th Congressional District – one candidate in the primary election, Aug. 30, and the other is the seated incumbent candidate. But if all goes as planned, this self-described “hard-working everyday guy” will win the general election Nov. 8 and get back to work, as he says, “serving as a voice in Washington for the people of South Florida.”
Garcia is the former U.S. Representative for the 26th District, defeated in his bid for re-election in 2014. The district includes most of western Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. He also served on the Florida Public Service Commission and in 2008 was appointed by President Obama as a director in the Department of Energy.
Born and raised in Miami by his Cuban-immigrant parents, Garcia is a product of local schools, from primary school to Miami-Dade Community College and the University of Miami where he earned both his Bachelor and J.D. degrees.
We had an opportunity to talk with the candidate the morning after Garcia and his Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, faced off in a candidate forum at the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations.
How do you feel you did at the Candidate Forum?
I’m always happy to speak directly with the voters and I think I showed why I’m the best choice. I shared my achievements in Congress, such as lowering student loan rates and saving homeowners thousands of dollars in flood insurance costs. I also underscored how we must invest in transportation to address the huge traffic problem here. My message was clear: I want to work together to move South Florida forward.
So why are you running?
If I am fortunate enough to get the vote of the people of the 26th Congressional District, they will once again know they have an experienced representative in Washington for help and answers – and they will know they are going to be treated fairly and honestly. I find tremendous fulfillment in serving and I think I create a better community by doing it.
Republicans came to power on three main issues: anti-gay, anti-immigration, and anti-abortion. But if you ask any millennial today, that’s not how they feel. We have to move on and have serious discussions about things that are really going to make a difference in this district, such as job creation. Four years from now when my daughter graduates from college, I want her to know she can get a good paying job here in South Florida. Part of the way that we make that happen is investing in ourselves, our community, and our people.
What do you want to see accomplished?
There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in making a difference in people’s lives. Be it fighting for veterans’ benefits or for somebody with a special needs child who needs help through the bureaucracy, in each one of these areas we were tremendously successful during my time in Congress. There was a huge flood insurance problem and we helped solve that. I also helped pass student-loan assistance and defended Obamacare against Republican attacks.
So I plan to continue to focus on local issues and bring dollars back home to strengthen our economy and the jobs market and the environment.
I believe we are doing a great disservice to our country by not reinvesting in local municipalities. When you build infrastructure, not only do you make cities and communities richer and more efficient, but you also create more middle-class and working-class jobs that pay better.
Look at the Everglades National Park, and the largest restoration project in history. Clearly we’re failing because we’ve stopped investing in it. Such projects are all about jobs and the betterment of our community. But I do know a city can’t afford to do all that work by itself. The federal government has to be a partner.
How do you respond to negative campaigning tactics?
The Republican attack machine and the Koch brothers are merciless. They are going to attack regardless of what I say or do, and use lies to create scandals. But I stand on my record of service to the people of South Florida. I have deep understanding and experience to continue fighting for our families in Congress. I feel comfortable that with my record of service in this community, we’re going to win.
Joe Garcia may be reached on Facebook or at www.joegarciaforfl.com.