Two years ago, then-U.S. Rep. Joe Garciatried to make a point about Republican spending on border security resulting in scores of government jobs. "Communism works," he quipped.
A political tracker was taping him. And the out-of-context words have been used in attack ads against him ever since -- even though Garcia is the son of exiles who fled Cuba.
So it goes with the latest ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which continues to jab Garcia as "embarrassing." Most of the ad is an attack on Garcia's support for the Iran nuclear deal. But the first quote that appears on the screen is "Communism works."
The NRCC is backing incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is using his first TV ad of the year to accuse Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- and Donald Trump -- of trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.
"Carlos Curbelo and Donald Trump want to go backwards," Garcia says in the 30-second spot, titled "Leadership." "They're working to repeal Obamacare, stripping healthcare from thousands of Florida families. That's wrong."
No sources are cited in the ad. Trump said as recently as Sunday, in his second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, that he'd get rid of Obamacare. Curbelo said when he was running in the Republican primary in 2014 that he'd "replace" Obamacare, "because to just say 'repeal' implies that there is no need for health care reform." Republicans, including Curbelo, haven't voted on any "replacement" legislation.
A recent poll commissioned by Garcia shows the candidates tied in the swing 26th district, which spans Westchester to Key West. Their first debate is scheduled to take place Thursday evening. Curbelo, who didn't have a primary challenger and has far outraised Garcia, has been on the airwaves for more than a month.
Garcia's new ad, coming as Miami-Dade County sends its first batch of mail-in ballots to voters, invokes President Barack Obama, whose national popularity has soared as of late. Garcia says he'll "improve" the healthcare legislation if he's returned to Congress.
Democrats hit Carlos Curbelo with Spanish-language TV advertising this week featuring a series of testimonials from Hispanics who accused the Miami Republican of failing to live up to his moderate rhetoric in Congress.
So Curbelo released a Spanish-language spot of his own -- showing off Hispanics who support him.
"It's very important to know that we have a voice," Rosa Maria Barbara of Miami-Dade County says in the ad. None of the speakers delves into any particular Curbelo issues or positions.
The freshman Curbelo faces a challenge from Democrat Joe Garcia. The anti-Curbelo ads have so far come from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which put up a third ad this week calling Curbelo a "phony."
The secretly recorded comments by Miami Democrat Joe Garcia about voters not wanting to "have sex" with Hillary Clinton now appear, two weeks later, in a new Miami radio ad paid for by the Republican Party.
"Remember why you got rid of former Congressman Joe Garcia? Scandals. Election fraud. Campaign payoffs. Former employees sent to jail," the narrator sneers. "Now Joe Garcia is running again and embarrassing you again."
The spot notes Garcia "was caught on camera making lewd and sexist comments about Hillary Clinton." He was taped by a political tracker and later apologized.
"Whether it's something he says or something he does, Joe Garcia has embarrassed South Florida long enough," concludes the ad by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which is helping incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo try to keep his Democratic-leaning seat.
"Trump-Republicans and Carlos Curbelo are desperately trying to distract South Florida voters from Curbelo's Republican record," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Javier Gamboa said in a statement. "Bad news for them, South Florida voters are rediscovering that Carlos Curbelo falls in line with the Republican Party, and they will reject the Trump-Curbelo ticket this November."
A version of the ad is also running in Spanish.
UPDATE: The NRCC has now launched a version of its ad on TV, so we've updated the headline for this post, too.
National Democrats fully endorsed Joe Garcia's congressional bid Friday, adding the former congressman from Miami to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red-to-Blue" program.
The DCCC had opposed Garcia in the primary, backing Annette Taddeo instead. The party wasn't quick to switch gears, though it did put out a Spanish-language radio ad two weeks ago for Garcia and against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
"Congressman Joe Garcia has spent his entire life in public service, working for his community and making sure everyone can achieve the American dream," DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. "From fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act, to effectively working towards fixing our broken immigration system, Joe has always stood by these values."
The red-to-blue program is meant to highlight candidates in Republican-held districts most likely to flip to Democrats. With the designation comes additional fundraising support. Garcia has been on the program every time he ran for Congress as a challenger, in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Garcia was ousted by Curbelo two years ago after a single term in Congress, but the 26th congressional district now leans more Democratic after having been redrawn.
Joe Garcia, the former Miami Democratic congressman running for his old seat, told supporters in a candid moment over the weekend that Hillary Clinton "is under no illusions that you want to have sex with her, or that she's going to seduce you."
Why Garcia went there is unclear. He was secretly recorded by a political "tracker" as he spoke informally at a Key West Democratic campaign office opening Saturday, video obtained by the Miami Herald shows.
The video -- recorded upside down as if a cellphone was in the tracker's hand -- showed Garcia standing in an office hallway with a few other men, apparently before Garcia was scheduled to address the full crowd. Clinton signs decorate some of the walls.
"I believe that we're going to have -- I'll mention it when I speak -- I believe we're about to see the most consequential presidency that we've seen since Lyndon Johnson," Garcia says. "This is not because I think Hillary Clinton is the greatest ever. But I do believe she is extremely, exceedingly competent, and she -- I know this is going to sound weird to you, but to me, as somebody who studies history, she's going to be very similar to Lyndon Johnson.
"Lyndon Johnson wasn't a particularly charming man, wasn't a particularly nice man: He would ask you nice, and then when you didn't do it, he made you do it," Garcia continued. "And Hillary is under no illusions that you want to have sex with her, or that she's going to seduce you, or out-think you."
One of the men in the hallway then makes an inaudible comment.
"I don't want to be offensive to women," Garcia responds. "What I'm talking about is exactly that: It's getting it done. Unlike Obama, who has this profound sense that logic can move people -- it can't move crazy. That's trending in the Republican Party."
Garcia then recommends listening to the Johnson tapes, admiring how Johnson got votes for the Civil Rights Act by calling senators from Western states by threatening to kill money for their water projects.
Asked to explain why he would refer to someone wanting to have sex with Clinton, Garcia issued a statement to the Herald.
"I believeSecretary Clinton is the most competent and qualified presidential candidate in the history of this country, man or woman," he said. "My comments speak to Secretary Clinton's focus on getting things done, and not on the gender stereotypes and biases women in public life are frequently subjected to. I fully support Hillary Clinton for president, and I'm confident she will be one of our country's most effective presidents."
National Republicans, however, cast Garcia's remark as embarrassing.
"It's shameful and disgusting that Joe Garcia would describe Hillary Clinton's qualifications to serve as president in terms of whether or not he would have sexual relations with her," National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin said in a statement. "It's time for national Democrats to answer whether they are going to support a sexist candidate like Joe Garcia who would say such sexually disparaging things about the first-ever female Democratic nominee for President of the United States."
Several hours later, Garcia issued a second statement -- this time saying sorry.
"I apologize for my poorly worded comment about Secretary Clinton," he said. "My comments were intended to speak to Secretary Clinton's relentless focus on getting the job done, despite the unjust gender stereotypes and biases women in public life are subjected to."
This post has been updated to include Garcia's second statement.
Normally it would hardly be newsworthy for a major labor union to endorse a Democrat for Congress.
But the Service Employees International Union didn't back Joe Garcia in the primary for Florida's 26th congressional district. It backed his primary rival, Annette Taddeo, instead, a week before Garcia even entered the race. Garcia won.
On Monday, SEIU formally threw its support behind him, backing the former congressman over the incumbent, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
"Joe has the support of working families because working families know they can count on Joe," SEIU Florida Monica Russo said in a statement delivered by Garcia's campaign. "Joe has been in the trenches fighting alongside South Florida workers for years, advocating for higher wages, immigrant rights, affordable healthcare, women's right to choose, renewable energy, and more! He is not an average Joe, he is a champion for the working class."
A pair of Homestead city council members are backing Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, switching their allegiances from Democrat Joe Garcia, whom they supported in 2014.
The Curbelo campaign released a endorsement Thursday from Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough, a Democrat, and last week from Councilman Jimmie Williams, who holds no party affiliation.
"Carlos has worked hard to improve access to quality education for every student and has advocated for criminal justice and immigration reform and funding for transportation and infrastructure," Fairclough said. "South Dade families need Carlos Curbelo to continue to represent us in Congress."
"Carlos is dedicated to bettering the lives of his constituents, making him an essential ally for our community," Williams said.
Both elected officials were behind then-Rep. Garcia two years ago. Curbelo has been campaigning as a moderate, saying in one of his TV ads that he values bipartisanship. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pushed back, arguing Curbelo is still too supportive of GOP leaders.
Democrat Joe Garcia accused Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Wednesday of launching a "divisive" political ad espousing an "odious" policy toward Cuban immigrants.
In a Spanish-language TV interview, Garcia referred to Curbelo's recent ad highlighting the Miami congressman's legislation to curtail abuse of federal benefits by Cuban immigrants who frequently return to the island. Garcia called it "an odious, toxic political calculation."
"At least when Mr. Trump stands in front of me, he's my enemy and he says so," Garcia said, dropping the name of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. "Worse is the guy from my same community, my same culture, who stands next to me and sticks a dagger in our backs."
Curbelo's law would no longer let Cuban immigrants automatically qualify for refugee status, which allows them to obtain certain government benefits. Some so-called economic refugees have been taking the money and frequently returning to Cuba, which suggests the immigrants aren't fleeing political persecution. That was the reason for considering Cubans refugees in the first place.
"This country offers us limitless opportunities," Curbelo says in his ad. "We can't let anyone abuse its generosity."
Garcia said Curbelo's proposal would hurt "the defenseless, the disenfranchised, the ones who arrived yesterday, as if these people don't deserve the consideration that Curbelo's father received, that my grandfather received."
Garcia has long disagreed with calls to alter federal laws that benefit Cuban immigrants. Cuba was one of the key issues that divided Curbelo and Garcia in the 2014 race, which Curbelo won. The 2016 contest looks no different.
"It's disgusting language like this that made Garcia's short, scandal-plagued tenure so ineffective," Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "While Joe Garcia continues to push normalized relations that threaten Cuban refugee status entirely, Carlos' proposal will protect the benefits for true refugees who continue to escape the Castro regime's oppression."
Garcia, who held the 26th district seat before Curbelo, boasted he won last week's Democratic primary despite being outspent by opponent Annette Taddeo. He credited knocking on voters' doors and sitting in their kitchens to sip coffee.
"Not only are we going to win" the general election, he predicted to América TeVé's Pedro Sevcec. "We're going to win handily."
In one TV ad, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is boating with one of his young daughters and talking in English about how nature is a key part of life -- and the economy -- in the Florida Keys. In the other, he's sitting around the kitchen table with his own mom and dad, who retell the story in Spanish about how they left Cuba for the U.S.
The message from the first ad: Curbelo is a Republican who cares about the environment and climate change (though he never utters the words "climate change"). The message from the second ad: Curbelo is a Cuban American willing to curtail "abuse" from some Cuban immigrants who receive U.S. government benefits.
Curbelo's two ads will start airing Tuesday, his campaign said: one in Monroe County and the other on Spanish-language networks across Florida's 26th congressional district, which extends from Westchester to Key West.
The Miami congressman is making an aggressive media push to kick of his Nov. 8 reelection campaign. His first TV ad came out last week, timed with the start of the college football season. He also put out his first Spanish-language radio ad last week, before Labor Day, the traditional start of general-election campaigns.
Curbelo has plenty of money in the bank for his tough race in a Democratic-leaning district against former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.