August 16, 2016

The Spanish-language TV debate ended. Then Joe Garcia lashed out at the moderator

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@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia was fuming when the cameras stopped rolling Monday night at the end of his first televised debate against Miami Democratic primary opponent Annette Taddeo.

Angered over what he perceived as bias against him, Garcia stepped into a hallway just outside the recording studio of Spanish-language station América TeVé and lashed out — loudly — at moderator Felix Guillermo and, later, at station manager Miguel Cossio, according to several people who overheard the heated argument.

Two people said they heard Garcia say “comemierda,” a common local insult usually taken to mean “fool” or “jackass,” though it literally translates to “shit-eater.” On Tuesday afternoon, Cossio and Guillermo vehemently denied to the Miami Herald that Garcia used the word against either of them.

“I wouldn’t have allowed that,” Cossio said. “He never insulted me,” Guillermo said.

The exchange lasted a few minutes, according to the people who heard it, with Garcia unleashing his frustration after a debate he apparently felt did not go well. América TeVé employees appeared surprised and embarrassed by the dust-up — especially because Taddeo still hadn’t left the station.

Guillermo dismissed the incident as an “internal” matter. “Nothing happened,” he told the Herald on Tuesday morning.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 15, 2016

Leaked Democratic Party documents paint Joe Garcia in a negative light

Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia speak to the Miami Herald editorial board. They’re running in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 26th congressional district.

 

@alextdaugherty 

An anonymous hacker believed to have connections with the Russian government released more stolen documents Monday afternoon detailing campaign strategy for Democrats in certain Florida congressional districts -- including Miami's most competitive race.

"Here are the DCCC docs on Florida: reports, memos, briefings, dossiers, etc," hacker Guccifer 2 wrote. "You can have a look at who you are going to elect now. It may seem the congressional primaries are also becoming a farce."

The stolen documents, released via a WordPress website, include strategy memos on Florida's 26th District, where Democrats Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo are waging a primary campaign to challenge Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Garcia, a former congressman who did not receive the support of the DCCC this year, was painted in a negative light in a document titled "FL-26 Path to Victory Summary" that was last updated April 1. The DCCC highlighted two Garcia gaffes during his time in office.  

"Garcia also made a large misstep during the campaign saying 'communism works; which did not sit well in an area with a large Cuban refugee population," the document says. "More embarrassingly, Garcia was caught on a CSPAN feed picking his earwax and seemingly eating it and the video made the rounds on the internet." 

The document goes on to highlight other Democratic goals to unseat Curbelo in District 26, notably getting 45 percent support from Hispanic/Latino voters, 57 percent from women voters, increased turnout among voters under 45 years of age, increased turnout among African-American voters in Homestead and at least 53.5 percent of the early vote. 

The DCCC also criticized Garcia's failed 2014 re-election campaign, saying it "was not a model to follow" and his direct-mail vendor was "subpar." It also said that Garcia's ground operation "struggled to garner support from local Democratic committees."

A second document titled "FL-26 Campaign Overview" from April 8 also acknowledged Taddeo's political vulnerabilities. 

"Annette has also proven to be a somewhat poor fundraiser and she has gained a reputation as an inadequate campaigner among some of the talkers in the community," the document says.

“As previously noted, the DCCC has been the target of a cybersecurity incident, and we are cooperating with federal law enforcement in their ongoing investigation," DCCC National Press Secretary Meredith Kelly said. "We are aware of reports that documents claimed to be from our network have been released and are investigating their authenticity."

UPDATE from Garcia campaign: "Today’s hack of Taddeo campaign documents shows that Annette Taddeo spent thousands of dollars on a private investigator to dig up dirt on Joe Garcia and then hired a Republican strategist to spin those lies into an insult-based campaign Florida Republicans are famous for -- the Garcia campaign has done none of the above and voters in Florida’s 26th district deserve better from Taddeo," Garcia spokesman Juan Peñalosa said in a statement. 

August 10, 2016

Once friends, Garcia and Taddeo become foes in tense Miami congressional primary

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@PatriciaMazzei

Not long ago, when Miami Democrat Joe Garcia was trying to get elected to one of the most volatile congressional seats in the country, he asked a stalwart friend if she could house a campaign worker who needed a place to stay.

That friend, Annette Taddeo, said yes.

Now Garcia is running again, this time as a former congressman two years out of office. His Democratic primary opponent is none other than his old friend: Taddeo.

And the motivation for her candidacy, as she explains it, is personal disappointment with Garcia, whose campaign got tied up in two separate criminal investigations connected to past elections shenanigans.

“That was just, to me, the ultimate kick in the gut,” she told the Miami Herald editorial board this week. “I don’t care that you’re a Democrat or a Republican — it’s just not right to play with the voters’ intent and to try to rig elections.”

Garcia, whose name is so well known in the district that he hasn’t spent serious money on the primary, maintains voters will see beyond his past legal troubles because they liked his work while in Congress.

“What you haven’t seen from me are false attacks,” he told the editorial board.

How Garcia and Taddeo went from chummy allies to tense rivals is a story about the extraordinary, often scandal-plagued politics of Florida’s 26th congressional district, a coveted prize among national Republicans and Democrats wrestling for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

August 03, 2016

Joe Garcia wants Congress to reconvene on Zika

@PatriciaMazzei

Joe Garcia wants House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring lawmakers back from recess to vote on a Zika-funding bill.

Garcia isn't in Congress anymore. But the Miami Democrat is running for his old seat again. And Miami is Ground Zero for local transmission of the mosquito-borne virus.

So Garcia sent Ryan a letter along with Democratic U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas. "For once, we need to put politics aside and equip our federal and state agencies with the necessary tools to combat this public health emergency," the letter says.

Florida's congressional delegation -- including Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whom Garcia would like to unseat -- sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday asking for more funding to combat the virus.

August 01, 2016

Annette Taddeo cancels appearance at immigration forum

@alextdaugherty

Annette Taddeo pulled out of a scheduled candidate forum to discuss immigration with primary opponent Joe Garcia.

The forum is set for Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Deuxieme Maison Building, Room 100, at Florida International University. Garcia is still scheduled to attend.

According to Bud Conlin of the Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees, a pro-immigrant group, Taddeo confirmed her attendance on July 5 but changed her mind on July 30.

"She didn't give an explanation; it's just very disappointing," Collins said. "I don't know the differences between Annette and Joe [on immigration] so that's why we wanted them both there to find the differences."

Taddeo's campaign did not immediately respond to a Miami Herald request for an explanation.

Incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo was also invited but has not confirmed his attendance. It is uncommon for sitting politicians to debate opponents who are in the midst of contesting a primary.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition, WeCount!, Students Working for Equal Rights, Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees, the Haitian Lawyers Association and United Families are sponsoring the forum. All are pro-immigrant groups that want a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

July 28, 2016

Republican super PAC ties Joe Garcia, Annette Taddeo to Clinton

@PatriciaMazzei

A super PAC tied to U.S. House Republican leaders debuted a website Thursday trying to link Democratic congressional candidates to Hillary Clinton's email scandal on the same day she will accept her party's presidential nomination.

Among the 12 targeted candidates are Miami's Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo, who are vying to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Behind the "ImWithCareless" website is Congressional Leadership Fund -- a group that, along with its sister nonprofit American Action Network (which can raise secret "dark" money) spent about $20 million on 2014 House races, including about $1.3 million in Curbelo's 26th district.

"Putting politics before principle, Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia are ‘Ready for Hillary’ regardless of how untrustworthy and reckless she’s found by voters or even the FBI," said Ruth Guerra, Congressional Leadership Fund's deputy communications director. "Democrats proudly embracing Hillary Clinton will have to explain to voters why they continue to stand by her record of scandals and dishonesty."

Democrats are similarly trying to portray House Republican incumbents and challengers as allied to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

July 13, 2016

Obamacare rears its head in Miami Democratic primary for Congress

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia touted his Obamacare support in the first mailer for his congressional campaign.

But his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo, begs to differ with Garcia's record.

In a statement Wednesday, her campaign accused Garcia of voting "with Republicans" to delay individual and employer mandates for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and 2014. Her camp also said Garcia "voted to undermine Obamacare by allowing health care plans to remain on the market" even if they didn't satisfy the law's standards.

"Joe Garcia should tell the truth about his record of voting against Obamacare and leaving hundreds of thousands South Floridians without affordable health care," Taddeo said in the statement.

It's not the first time Garcia's votes on the law become a political issue. When he sought re-election in 2014, a super PAC backing him said Garcia "took the House to task" over the law. At the time, Garcia was running in a Republican-leaning midterm year -- in one of the country's most competitive swing districts. He also got hit from the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce for backing Obamacare.

"Joe has been a strong advocate for Obamacare and access to affordable healthcare," Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said. "Joe never once voted to repeal Obamacare. During the rollout of Obamacare he cast votes to help ease the transition to the new system."

Joe Garcia touts congressional record in first campaign mailer

@alextdaugherty

For now, Joe Garcia isn’t fighting fire with fire. His campaign released its first campaign mailer Wednesday, and the flier makes no mention of his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo. 

Candidates who lead in the polls like Garcia typically avoid engaging with their primary rivals. Taddeo’s campaign released a flier last week attacking Garcia over his former campaign manager and contributions from for-profit colleges.

Garcia's mailer says he fought to lower the cost of college loans and flood insurance, opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, advocated for immigration reform and secured funds for job training.

"Joe Garcia has worked his whole life for South Florida, and this campaign will be about everything he has done for our community," Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement.

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July 08, 2016

'Mistakes were made,' Joe Garcia says of past campaign trouble

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami congressional candidate and former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia can't escape questions about his past campaign troubles. And his Democratic primary rival, Annette Taddeo, appears to be relishing the fight.

"People pay a huge price," Garcia said in a Florida Keys forum Thursday, apparently referring to the jail time served by his former chief of staff. "Clearly, mistakes were made."

Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, went to jail over submitting unlawful absentee-ballot requests in 2012. He also received probation after acknowledging he put up a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010.

Joe Garcia was never charged with any wrongdoing -- and won't be, since the statute of limitations has expired. "We corrected those mistakes when we found them," he said at the forum, according to video obtained by the Miami Herald. "We fired the people, and we moved forward."

But Taddeo reminded forum-goers that an email discovered by federal prosecutors in the 2010 case suggested Joe Garcia might have known about the ringer candidate.

"I have to tell you, I'm someone that actually supported Joe Garcia strongly, because I wanted to get rid of David Rivera," Taddeo said, referring to the Republican ex-congressman Garcia ousted in 2012. Rivera is suspected of orchestrating a ringer candidate of his own that year. 

"To find out that after he's elected he had done the same thing two years prior!" Taddeo said of Garcia.

Attacking Garcia may be Taddeo's only option, given that she has been behind in polls. Her campaign has started mailing fliers to voters -- including one going negative on her opponent.

Garcia, for his part, declared himself the winner of the forum in a statement Friday.

July 06, 2016

Joe Garcia and the semantics of immigration politics

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, recently pounced on news that incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo backed a fellow GOP congressman who suggested immigrants in the U.S. be tracked like Fed-Ex packages.

"Rep. Comstock: track immigrants like FedEx packages. Yet @repcurbelo gave her $1000 from immigration PAC," Garcia tweeted on June 30.

The post linked to a Miami Herald story about contributions from Curbelo's leadership back -- including one to Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who said in 2-14 that "Fed-Ex can track packages coming in here all of the time, we can track people who are coming into the country and we can do that right."

Comparing people to shipping packages did not go over well with pro-immigration activists. But it turns out Garcia made a similar reference two years ago -- not to shipping, but to credit cards.

In a local 2014 radio interview with host Grant Stern, Garcia -- then a sitting congressman -- made an analogy to a traveler using his credit card to buy a coconut in a remote area of Thailand. (Aroud the 40-minute mark.)

"American Express finds you, yet we can't find Pedro, when he crosses the border. It's silliness," Garcia said, apparently using a "Pedro" as the stand-in name for a Hispanic immigrant.

Garcia had been talking about the need for immigration reform, but he added he didn't advocate open borders, just better policies.

Asked about Garcia's comment in light of the candidate's shot at Comstock and Curbelo, Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez argued the AmEx reference related to financial instruments the U.S. could use to find trouble immigrants -- though if that's what Garcia meant, he didn't make it explicit in the 2014 interview.

"Unlike the Trump Republicans supported by Carlos Curbelo, Joe Garcia would never compare immigrants to inanimate objects in order to score political points," Hernandez said in a statement. "Joe's comments -- in an interview supporting immigration reform -- addressed the ability of the government to use financial tracking mechanisms, if needed, to bring justice to individuals who are breaking the law."