Congressional District 26 just keeps on giving.
The swing district that stretches from central Miami-Dade to Key West has furnished two separate criminal convictions in unrelated schemes and a tough reelection campaign for Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.
One of his opponents, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo, issued a blistering press release today that questioned Garcia's fitness to lead Democrats' immigration-reform efforts in the U.S. House. Among the many criticisms, Curbelo highlighted a snippet of a quote from a Frontline documentary in 2008 in which Garcia commented on President George W. Bush's impressive Hispanic outreach.
"He'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas," Garcia said.
Said Curbelo: "If Joe Garcia is willing to make comments like the one below, how is he well-suited to lead on immigration reform?"
Garcia responded by pointing out that the seven-second snippet highlighted by Curbelo had no context and made it sound as if he were saying something offensive about Mexicans.
"This guy is out there campaigning while I was on the House floor last night standing up for immigrants," Garcia said. "I'm taking a lead role in immigration reform and he's engaging in this silliness."
Garcia said the full context of his quote made clear he was praising the former Republican president's campaigning: "It was an unprecedented effort that yielded unprecedented results. It was the 'I love you' campaign, by George Bush. The ads were called Te Conosco. 'I know you.' And he did. He was from Texas. You know, he—he—he had, you know, he'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas. But the reality is, that—that dynamic of knowing these folks—was very powerful."
Curbelo said he didn't know where the video clip came from, but recently happened across it on YouTube, where it was uploaded in 2012 with the headline "Joe Garcia Said What?"
Curbelo's attack on Garcia wasn't limited to the video clip; he referenced the recent conviction and incarceration of Garcia's former campaign and staff chief in an absentee ballot-request fraud case. The congressman was not implicated in the scheme (which yielded no phony votes) and said he knew nothing about it. A candidate Garcia bested in the August 2012 primary was convicted in a separate campaign-finance crime linked to the incumbent he beat in the general election, former Rep. David Rivera.
Curbelo's press release also questioned the sincerity of the Democrats' immigration-reform push overall, but he shied away from mentioning that the House bill pushed by Garcia, patterned after a bipartisan plan that passed the Senate, has been effectively killed by GOP House leaders.
Curbelo's press release, however, didn't condemn Garcia's bill and he reserved a measure of praise for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an immigration-reform leader who's in Miami to sign copies of his new autobiography.
"We respect his commitment to finding a bipartisan solution for immigration reform," Curbelo said. "Gutierrez's visit to Miami is an opportunity to discuss the prospects of a bill getting through the House next year and to highlight the many flaws of our existing immigration system."