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Luis Garcia loses campaign manager, consultant in congressional race against David Rivera

Miami state Rep. Luis Garcia's congressional campaign has undergone a shakeup, following Garcia's comments in which he blasted national Democrats for trying to recruit another candidate to jump in the race.

Garcia campaign manager Kiel Brunner and consultant Christian Ulvert left the campaign shortly after Garcia slammed two members of Congress: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel and, in particular, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

The moves, eight months after Garcia launched his campaign against U.S. Rep. David Rivera, signal that Democrats are still in disarray over how to challenge the incumbent Republican, who faces reelection for the first time this fall under a cloud of investigation

The latest bump for Garcia's rocky campaign comes after another Democrat accused him of suggesting she had endorsed him to raise money and after the national party reached out to former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas to run in the Democratic primary.

Garcia bashed Israel and Wasserman Schultz for what he called turning their back on him. "At the very least, I was handled disrespectfully -- maybe a little bit dishonestly," he said earlier this month.

He's still not holding any punches: "You know what the DCCC, in my book, stands for?" he said. "The double-crossers, connivers and cowards."

Brunner, who declined to comment about his departure, had been drafted by the DCCC to run Garcia's campaign. Ulvert had long ties to Garcia, having run his first Florida House race. The two men still call each other friends.

"As soon as we had difficulties with the DCCC, it was best for both of us to part ways, and I wasn't sorry," Garcia said. "Now I'm running my campaign."

Said Ulvert: "Running for Congress requires a wide and deep team, and the formula requires having the support of the DCCC, and it's very clear that support is not there. I couldn't provide Luis Garcia the counsel he needs in continuing this race."

In addition to losing the support of the DCCC -- which had encouraged Garcia to run but was apparently unimpressed by his lackluster fundraising numbers, though early on they exceeded Rivera's -- Ulvert said the campaign had a hard time reaching traditional local donors. Some donors, he said, have not forgiven Garcia for backing former Gov. Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate, an independent, two years ago instead of former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Democrat.

"Luis Garcia's endorsement of Charlie Crist has hurt his effort to build the support he needed among key Democrats in South Florida," Ulvert said.

Garcia, however, countered that the formula Democrats use to run congressional campaigns across the country is flawed. "They try to run a campaign here the same way they do in Wisconsin, and it doesn't work that way," he said.

"You cannot win a campaign locked in an office" raising money, he added.

Now, Garcia said he is getting campaign help from his son Jorge -- and saving money. The campaign had paid Ulvert alone at least $24,250 in consulting fees, according to the latest finance reports.

"At one time, I was creating more jobs than Obama," Garcia quipped.

Running as a centrist might help Garcia attract some moderate voters in a congressional district that, at least before redistricting, leaned Republican. But it won't help him with Democrats.

Party insiders continue to reach out to other possible candidates, including former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales, who said he is not interested. "I'm not running for Congress," he said.

"My guess is that seat will keep attracting maybe one or two more people," he said. "Both parties want to make sure they put their best foot forward. Heck, the Republicans are still looking for a good candidate for president."