MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents by political analysts in 2012. That outlook hasn’t changed on Election Day.
The Democratic freshman has been virtually tied in the polls with his Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo. And like the gubernatorial race, both of these two candidates are not fighting for who is more popular, but for who is disliked less.
Garcia, 51, has been fighting off allegations corruption related to his ex-chief of staff’s conviction on filling out multiple absentee ballot requests. Garcia has denied personally knowing that his chief of staff set up a plot to make fake online requests for absentee ballots in the 2012 contest. Regardless, Curbelo’s ads have harped on these accusations.
Garcia has shot back with plenty of negative ads, detailing Curbelo’s alleged desire to detract Medicaid and Social Security benefits from senior citizens. One ad shows Curbelo calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”
Garcia is an attorney who was appointed to the Florida Public Service Commission by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles. Garcia later served as executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation. In 2009, Garcia went to work for President Barack Obama in the Department of Energy.
Garcia won the congressional seat in his third attempt, defeating Rivera, who faced numerous ethics-related questions.
Curbelo, 34, who set up a business and political consulting firm called Capitol Gains after graduating from the University of Miami, served as state director for U.S. Sen. George LeMieux before winning a seat on the Miami-Dade School Board in 2010.
In the five-way Republican primary in August, Curbelo received 47 percent of the vote.
Garcia and Curbelo, both of Cuban descent, take opposing stances on many key issues in the district, such as on the Affordable Care Act, flood insurance, Social Security and Cuba.
Garcia will host a watch party at 7 p.m. at Casa Vieja Restaurant, located at 10325 Hammocks Blvd.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.