Reporting Gary Nelson
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Three-term Democratic state representative Luis Garcia announced Wednesday that he will run for the seat now held by embattled Republican rookie congressman David Rivera.
“This district was my home for 31 years,” Garcia told a cheering crowd of supporters as he announced his candidacy at Tamiami Park in West Miami-Dade. “This is not David Rivera’s seat. This is the people’s seat.”
There is blood in the political water surrounding Rivera. His campaign and personal finances are under criminal investigation. He is suspected of, among other things, failing to report income from gambling interests, and falsely claiming that the bulk of his living was made from a government job that he never actually had. Rivera has denied any wrongdoing.
Garcia becomes the first, but is not expected to be the last, to announce a run for Rivera’s seat.
Garcia said he brings a record of scandal-free public service to the campaign, having entered politics later in life.
“The people that have represented this district have been career politicians. I was a firefighter. I was a fire chief,” Garcia told CBS4′s Gary Nelson.
He is running in a district that was gerrymandered to all but guarantee a Republican seat; but redistricting before next year’s election could change that.
“How that district might look is what will determine how competitive it will be for a Democratic challenger,” said Fernand Amandi of the political polling and consulting firm Bendixen and Amandi. “That will determine whether Rivera will be able to hold on – if he survives a Republican primary.”
Rivera has been shunned by his own party’s leadership of late. He was deliberately left off the invitation lists for two recent, major GOP fundraising events.
Amandi said Rivera, given the on-going investigations, could face a strong Republican challenger in the primary.
Garcia said he is ready for any opponent, assuming he wins the Democratic nomination.
“My career has been out there for anyone to see. I’m very proud of it, and will stack it up against anybody,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s announcement drew this statement from Rivera: “I look forward…to the voters contrasting my fiscally responsible approach…with the failed economic policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Luis Garcia or Joe Garcia.”
Joe Garcia is the Democrat who Rivera defeated in the 2010 general election.
Luis Garcia said Thursday that his campaign will focus on helping the people of district 25, who he said have been “disenfranchised” for years.
Garcia said he will defend the middle class and “fight to preserve Social Security and Medicare.” He said he is appalled that some are calling for cuts to those programs, while refusing to budge on tax breaks for the very wealthy.