The Democratic race to face one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress ended Tuesday when Joe Garcia fended off three challengers to capture his party’s nomination.
Now the tough work begins for Garcia: Taking on Rep. David Rivera, a popular Republican who narrowly escaped a multi-count state indictment for campaign finance violations and still faces a federal investigation.
“No one should turn on their television, open up their newspaper or listen to the radio to find out their congressman is under FBI investigation," Garcia said to loud applause from supporters Tuesday night at La Casona restaurant. "It’s time to turn the page and leave these scandals behind."
But Rivera is no easy foe.
Popular in Miami’s vocal Cuban-exile community, Rivera is a fixture on Spanish-language radio and has never lost an election. Rivera bested Garcia in 2010 by double digits. And he faulted Garcia for opposing Cuba sanctions, supporting President Obama’s agenda and working for “Big Energy” companies after he regulated utilities on the Public Service Commission.
“Joe Garcia is the single-most corrupt career candidate in America,” Rivera said. “Joe Garcia wants to go to Congress to promote the failed economic policies of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. I look forward to contrasting my vision of creating jobs with his record of cronyism and corruption.”
A third South Florida incumbent, Democrat Frederica Wilson, easily beat Dr. Rudy Moise and will head back to Congress with no general-election opponent.
Former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel beat fellow Democrat and Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, and faces former state Republican House leader Adam Hasner in November.
That race could be close, pitting two longtime Palm Beach County figures against each other.
But it’s unlikely to be as hotly fought as the Garcia-Rivera matchup in the Kendall-to-Key West district.