State Rep. Luis Garcia announced late Monday that he will drop out of the Congressional race against Republican Rep. David Rivera. Instead, Garcia, a Miami Democrat, will run for Miami-Dade Commission against Bruno Barreiro.
Garcia had launched his campaign against Rivera last year. But things did not go well: Garcia dropped out after losing his campaign manager and getting in a verbal tussle with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Garcia was given an out by wealthy auto magnate Norman Braman, who is recruiting candidates he considers reform-minded to challenge incumbent county commissioners. Braman bankrolled last year's recall against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez.
"As I'm looking around, I think I can affect more issues here, at the local level," said Garcia, a former Miami Beach fire chief and later city commissioner, who in his six years in the Florida Legislature has represented many of the same constituents as Barreiro. "The way the county is managed right now, you have different kingdoms. A commissioner is basically a king ... They are not responsive to their constituents."
Garcia also said he will likely leave the Democratic Party and have no party affiliation because he is so disappointed with how national Democrats treated him in the Congressional campaign.
The question now for Democrats is whether they will be able to find a viable candidate able to raise enough money and enough of a profile to challenge Rivera.
Democrats have said they want to target Rivera's swing seat, which they see as winnable because Rivera has been under a cloud of investigations into his personal and campaign finances since before taking office.
However, the state investigation against Rivera has stalled, and the candidates Democrats have tried to recruit appear reluctant to run. Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales said he is not running, and former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas told The Miami Herald on Friday that he was not sure he would jump in the race even if Garcia, as was rumored, dropped out.
A Democratic insider says the party has also put out feelers to political rookies who might be interested in running for office.
Predicted Garcia: "They're going to revive a couple of political cadavers that have lost other elections ... They missed a big opportunity to take that seat back."