A surprise guest showed up Thursday at the first debate between Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democratic former Rep. Joe Garcia: Garcia's former chief of staff, who was fired and went to jail when the ex-congressman was in office.
Jeffrey Garcia sat in the auditorium of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, after having disappeared from local politics following his jail term.
His presence did not go unnoticed.
As soon as Curbelo and Joe Garcia, no relation, sparred over the criminal cases that resulted in two convictions for Jeffrey Garcia, Curbelo pointed to the audience.
"He's actually sitting right there," Curbelo said.
"You never spoke to him again," Curbelo continued, before invoking the school's motto. "Whatever happened to 'men for others'?"
Mentioning Jeffrey Garcia made it seem like he might have been invited by Curbelo, so he could make a point against his opponent. A Curbelo spokeswoman denied having given him a ticket and suggested he'd gotten it from Garcia. But a Garcia spokesman also denied any involvement.
Jeffrey Garcia, as a Belen alumnus like both candidates, said that's how he'd gotten in.
"I don't need an invitation to come to Belen," he told the Miami Herald.
This post has been updated with Jeffrey Garcia's comment.
Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald