Miami Democrat Joe Garcia warned voters that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump could be as dangerous to the U.S. as the late President Hugo Chávez was for Venezuela.
Garcia told Miami-based El Venezolano TV, a small local publication, that "Trump is a reality, folks."
"If there's anyone who knows the importance of the vote it's Venezuelans, who have experienced the tragedy of seeing a demagogue get into power," Garcia said. "For Venezuelans, this isn't theoretical... They don't see this as right and left. They see very clear similarities" to Chávez, he implied.
Garcia, a former congressman, urged voters in Florida's 26th district, which stretches from Westchester to Key West, to volunteer for or donate to political campaigns for candidates (left unsaid: like himself) who denounce Trump.
"We've lived through what it's like to lose a democracy," said Garcia, whose parents were born in Cuba. "We should all participate, because democracy has results."
It's not surprising for a Democrat in a district with a large number of Venezuelan immigrants to deride Trump as Chávez-like. But it is unusual to hear U.S. politicians compare any popularly elected (or in this case, soon-to-be nominated) U.S. leaders to authoritarian rules from other countries.
Before Trump, Garcia said he would have "bet his life" that Republicans nominated former Gov. Jeb Bush. He disagreed with Bush when he was governor, Garcia said, but "he always kept his eye on the Hispanic community."
Garcia is coming off a strong couple of weeks. Polls -- including from his primary rival's campaign -- showed him leading opponent Annette Taddeo. Taddeo fired her top campaign staff shortly after that.