Joe Garcia Wins As David Rivera Faces Down Ethics Charges

Nov 7, 2012

Joe Garcia Wins

Democrat Joe Garcia convincingly beat incumbent Republican David Rivera Tuesday night to win Florida's 26th Congressional District seat.

Rivera lost by more than 10 points to Garcia. It was almost a perfect reversal from 2010, when Rivera soundly beat Garcia by more than 9 points.

After two failed runs for U.S. Congress, Garcia got some unconventional help this time around. His opponent, incumbent David Rivera, was the target of two federal investigations and was accused of ethics violations by the state ethics commission.

In Garcia's acceptance speech, he mentioned Rivera only to congratulate him on a hard-fought campaign:

"We wish him and his family well."

Otherwise, it was all issues -- primarily, bipartisanship in Washington.

"I hope to work with my colleagues in the neighboring districts. Congressman Ros-Lehtinan and Congressman Diaz-Balart. We may be from different parties, but they have my respect and we want to see our community and families prosper," said Garcia.

Joe Garcia will join Ileana Ros-Lehtinan and Mario Diaz-Balart in the elite group of Cuban-Americans elected to federal positions. Unlike his new colleagues, however, Garcia is a Democrat. In fact, he’s the first Cuban-American Democrat to ever be elected to U.S. Congress from South Florida.

"We like and we care about Cuba, but we like to see congressmen work for our people down here in South Florida," said Ernesto Leiro, a member of the Miami-Dade Cuban American Democratic Club -- a small club of about 50 members. He said Tuesday caps off a trend that’s been building: the old conservative Cuban guard is being replaced and out-voted by younger, more liberal Cuban-Americans.

David Rivera Loses

With the FBI and the IRS hot on David Rivera's trail, the handwriting was already on the wall by the time Election Day rolled around.

The Rivera campaign didn't bother with the traditional watch party in a hotel ballroom. Instead, the candidate holed up with his friends in a strip-mall storefront near his district office on Bird Road.

Supporters who had guarded the door as the votes were counted boiled over when Joe Garcia claimed the victory.

“I feel extremely upset, I wolld call on everybody to boycott the Miami Herald immediately,” said Rivera supporter, John Peter Lyons.

Rivera didn't think his legal problems had anything to do with the first defeat of his 10-year political career.

“I think the voters were focused on issues that are impacting them day after day, jobs and the economy and bringing fiscal responsibilities back to Washington but when you're running in a presidential year, there are a lot of factors that are outside your control,” said Rivera.