Joe García

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For the American pulmonary scientist and physician, see Joe G. N. Garcia.
José "Joe" García
Joe Garcia Off Port 113Cong.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 26th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by district created
Personal details
Born José Antonio García, Jr.
(1963-10-12) October 12, 1963 (age 50)
Miami Beach, Florida
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Aileen Ugalde (1992-2012)
Children Gabriela (b. 1998)
Residence Miami, Florida
Alma mater Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
University of Miami (B.A.)
University of Miami Law School (J.D.)
Website Representative Joe Garcia

José Antonio "Joe" García, Jr. (born October 12, 1963) is the U.S Representative for Florida's 26th congressional district. The district includes most of western Miami-Dade County, as well as the Florida Keys. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He is the former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and was nominated by President Barack Obama to be director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact and Diversity of the United States Department of Energy, a position for which he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.[1]

Early life, education, and family[edit]

José Antonio García, Jr. was born in Miami Beach to José García Sr. and his wife, Carmen. His parents fled Cuba after the Cuban Revolution occurred and Fidel Castro's Communist regime took power. García graduated in 1982 from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. While at Belen Jesuit he participated in the Close Up Washington civic education program. Garcia attended Miami-Dade Community College before earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and public affairs from the University of Miami in 1987. While at the university, Garcia was elected president of the student government. Garcia later earned his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law in 1991 but failed the bar exam.[2]

García was married to Aileen Maria Ugalde, general counsel for the University of Miami. They have one daughter, Gabriela. García and his wife divorced in 2012.

Early public sector career[edit]

García served on the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) as chairman.[2] While on the FPSC, he also chaired the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and was second vice chair of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (SEARUC). Garcia was later appointed to the Federal Communications Commission Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service and was a member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).[3]

García served on the board of the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD) and on the board of directors of Regis House, a drug addiction treatment and prevention center for inner-city youth in Miami. García is a member of the board of directors of the Cuban American National Foundation, and is a past president. He also has served as director of the New Democrat Network Hispanic Strategy Center, and chairman of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County.[3]

In 2009, García joined the Obama administration in a Senate-confirmed position as director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact for the Department of Energy.[2]

As director of the Office of Economic Impact, García worked closely with small business owners to increase their participation in the energy sector. He focused on the cause of women and minorities within the federal government by partnering with minority serving institutions, like Florida International University. As head of the Civil Rights office, Garcia worked to ensure that institutions that received money from the federal government did not discriminate against women and minorities.[3]

During his tenure at the Energy Department, Garcia was also appointed by President Barack Obama to the Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status. On the Task Force, García focused on lowering energy costs in Puerto Rico and pushed for renewable energy projects on the island of Vieques.[3]

United States House of Representatives[edit]

Rep. García was sworn into his first two-year term on January 3, 2013.

Immigration reform[edit]

Joe Garcia is the chief sponsor in the House of Representatives of a comprehensive immigration reform plan[4] which is similar to legislation that has passed the United States Senate. If enacted, the plan would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people already living and working in the United States. When the bill was introduced Garcia stressed that while it is not a perfect piece of legislation, it is a strong compromise that addresses concerns of both parties while fixing a broken system no one is happy with. He has since introduced a discharge petition,[5] a mechanism for bypassing the Speaker and forcing a vote on the House Floor. Garcia has also joined with immigration reform advocates in numerous attempts to convince GOP leadership to bring the bill to vote, including the “Fast for Families,”[6] that has been ongoing since 2013.

Flood insurance[edit]

Garcia has introduced legislation that would halt flood insurance rate hikes for five years. His efforts stem from previous legislation that once in place would hit 268,000 Floridians with rate increases of between 20 to 400 percent.[7] The Miami Herald reports that the bill applies to all property owners covered by the National Florida Insurance Program, and provides the greatest relief to those hardest hit—including an estimated 47,000 in Miami-Dade County.[7]

Voter registration fraud scandal[edit]

On 31 May 2013, Representative García’s chief-of-staff and top political strategist resigned after being implicated in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate the previous year’s primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests. Jeffrey Garcia’s resignation came three months after a Miami Herald investigation found that hundreds of the 2,552 fraudulent online requests for the 14 August primary election originated from unknown hackers using IP addresses in Miami. On the same day, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, served search warrants seeking computers and electronic equipment on the homes of Representative Garcia’s communications director, Giancarlo Sopo, and John Estes, his 2012 campaign manager.[8] Jeffrey García, the aide, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in October, 2013. He was released from Miami-Dade Correctional Center on December 25, 2013 after having served 65 days of a 90 day active sentence. He must now serve three months of house arrest followed by 15 months of probation. [9]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Rep. García was sworn into his first two-year term on January 3, 2013.

Despite the urging of several political and media organizations as well as prominent leaders, Garcia refused to disclose any of his stances for the 2012 Political Courage Test.[10]


García supports a woman's right to choose and has voted against legislation that would prohibit organizations that perform abortions from receiving federal funds.[11]


Garcia joined other Cuban lawmakers in submitting a letter to the State Department calling for Cuba to remain a designated state-sponsor of terrorism. And in a Sept. 19 letter, he joined with the other three Cuban-American House members by raising concerns over the regime’s involvement in selling art at a Houston art fair.[12]

García supported the application of a Havana-based research institute to get a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to test and market a diabetes treatment in the United States. Critics claim that the license could weaken the embargo and could eventually lead to giving the Castro regime access to American markets without political reform.[13]

García believes the United States should continue to allow Cuban-Americans to make unlimited trips to Cuba and other Americans to go there for "purposeful travel," such as educational tours and religious missions. [14]

Gay marriage[edit]

García supports same-sex marriage.[11] He was one of 172 Congressman who signed a memorandum sent to the Supreme Court to repeal DOMA.[15]

Health care[edit]

García opposes repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act[10][11][16]

Social Security[edit]

He opposes any privatization of social security.[10][11] In addition Garcia opposes raising the retirement age.[11]


García supports developing renewable and alternative sources of energy.[17] He opposes offshore drilling,[10][11][17] and also opposes any offshore energy production, hoping to develop energy industries on shore.[10]



García announced on February 7, 2008, his candidacy for the U.S. Congress in Florida's 25th congressional district. Garcia proved to be a prolific fundraiser, raising over $1.8 million. Incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart defeated Garcia 53%-47%.[18]


In April 2010, Garcia announced his candidacy for the 25th district again, after U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart announced he would run for reelection in the 21st District being vacated by his brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. In his campaign announcement, Garcia noted he would focus on job creation, funding education and health care as his top priorities.[2] Garcia defeated Luis Meurice in the Democratic primary 76%-24%.[19]

In the general election, Garcia faced State Representative David Rivera, Tea Party activist Roly Arrojo, and Florida Whig Party nominee Craig Porter. Rivera defeated Garcia 52%-43%, or a 9.5-point margin.[20][21]


In 2012, Garcia announced he would seek a rematch against Rivera in what was now the 26th district. It is more divided between Republicans and Democrats than its predecessor, the 25th district. It had been pushed well to the east and south, losing its share of Collier County and picking up all of Monroe County, including the Keys. The race was widely expected to be much closer than in previous cycles, in part due to the new demographics, and due to numerous scandals surrounding Rivera. In addition to several state probes, Rivera was the target of a federal investigation into allegations he tried to sabotage the Democratic primary in the 26th by secretly funding an unknown candidate, Justin Sternad, in hopes of avoiding a rematch against Garcia. Several vendors Sternad employed in his campaign told The Miami Herald that Rivera had funded Sternad's campaign.[22] Sternad himself subsequently told the FBI that Rivera had funded his campaign. Sternad's campaign manager, Ana Alliegro, was a close friend of Rivera's, and according to Sternad served as the go-between.[23]

Garcia won the rematch, defeating Rivera 54%–43%.[24] He is the first Cuban-American Democrat to represent South Florida in Congress, as well as the first non-black Democrat to represent a significant portion of Miami since 1993.


  • Clark, Lesley "3 Fla Congressional Candidates in Spotlight", The Miami Herald, August 27, 2008, page A2
  • Padgett, Tim "Big Trouble in Little Havana", Time Magazine, August 15, 2008
  • Rieff, David "Will Little Havana Go Blue?", The New York Times, July 13, 2008
  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Patricia Mazzei (23 September 2010). "Democratic House candidate Joe Garcia more mellow this time around". Miami Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Campaigns -- Joe Garcia for FL-25". Democracy for America. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ MAZZEI, PATRICIA (31 May 2013). "Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff implicated in phantom absentee-ballot requests scheme". Miami Herald (Miami Florida). 
  9. ^ [2].
  10. ^ a b c d e "Representative Joe Garcia's Issue Positions(Political Courage Test)". Vote Smart. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Joe Garcia (Democrat, district 26)". On The Issues. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Joe García, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel sign gay marriage brief". Gay South Florida. 
  16. ^ "joe Garcia for Congress". Democracy for America. 
  17. ^ a b "Joe Garcia, D: Fla.-26". Roll Call. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Jaweed Kaleem (3 November 2010). "Joe Garcia concedes to David Rivera, Allen West leads in Congressional race". Miami Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  22. ^ Caputo, Marc (August 21, 2012). "Campaign vendors say Republican Congressman David Rivera funded Democrat’s failed primary bid". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  23. ^ Marc Caputo; Manny Garcia (2012-09-25). "Rivera ran secret campaign, Sternad tells FBI". The Miami Herald. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 26th congressional district

January 3, 2013 – present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Pete Gallego
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Dennis Heck