Sources: Garcia to Try Again in Florida

Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:57pm

Former Miami-Dade County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Garcia, who came 6 points shy of knocking off Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) in 2008, is throwing his hat back into the ring for another try this cycle.

Sources say Garcia will announce his candidacy for the now-open 25th district seat in the middle of next week. Garcia is known to be gathering his campaign team.

Garcia had been much sought after by party officials in the wake of Diaz-Balart’s decision earlier this year to retire from the 25th district and run for the neighboring 21st district seat that is being vacated by his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R).

Garcia had a meeting with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) in late February after the Diaz-Balarts announced their electoral plans and he was also encouraged by officials within the Obama administration to take another look at the race. He may have finally been convinced to run by the results of a poll that the DCCC conducted on the race in late March.

“A Joe Garcia candidacy would instantly make this seat an excellent pickup opportunity,” DCCC spokesman Shripal Shah said on Friday.

Last cycle, Garcia proved a prolific fundraiser, eventually raising about $1.8 million after entering the race in February 2008. He was outspent by Mario Diaz-Balart by about $800,000, but the financial playing field should be a little more even in an open-seat race.

Democrats also view the swing district as a potential pickup opportunity because voter registration has been trending in their direction. In 2006, Republicans had a 21,000-voter registration advantage in the district. In 2008 that advantage dropped to just 2,000, and as of the first of this year Democrats had about a 600-voter registration advantage.

Joanna Burgos, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman, was dismissive of another Garcia bid, calling him “a reliable tax-raiser and rubber stamp” for national Democratic leaders.

“Especially during a time when our country is facing economic hardship and government takeovers, South Floridians will continue to support a pro-family candidate who stands for smaller government and lower taxes,” Burgos said.

On the GOP side, state Rep. David Rivera jumped out early in the open-seat race and he announced this week that he had raised more than $700,000 in six weeks of campaigning. That fundraising haul was a major reason he was named to the NRCC’s “Young Guns” campaign program this week.

State Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R) is also considering running for the seat.