|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Florida's 26th district
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||David Rivera (Redistricting)|
|Succeeded by||Carlos Curbelo|
|Chair of the Florida Public Service Commission|
January 1999 – June 30, 2000
|Preceded by||Julia Johnson|
|Succeeded by||E. Leon Jacobs Jr.|
|Commissioner of the Florida Public Service Commission|
August 19, 1994 – June 30, 2000
|Preceded by||Luis J. Lauredo|
|Succeeded by||Braulio L. Baez|
José Antonio Garcia, Jr.
October 12, 1963
Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Aileen Ugalde (m. 1992-2012)|
|Education||University of Miami (BA, JD)|
José Antonio Garcia Jr. (born October 12, 1963), known as Joe Garcia, is an American attorney and politician. Garcia represented Florida's 26th congressional district in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015. A Democrat, Garcia represented most of western Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys in Congress.
Garcia previously served as executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and in the Department of Energy. In 2021, Garcia became a registered lobbyist on behalf of the government of Ethiopia.
Early life and education
José Antonio Garcia, Jr. was born in Miami Beach, Florida to José Garcia, Sr. and his wife, Carmen. His parents fled Cuba after the Cuban Revolution occurred and Fidel Castro's Communist regime took power. Garcia graduated in 1982 from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, where 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 university, Garcia was elected president of the student government. He earned his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law in 1991.
Garcia served on the Florida Public Service Commission as chairman. While on the FPSC, he chaired the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and was second vice chair of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. 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.
Garcia 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. He is a member of the board of directors of the Cuban American National Foundation, and a past president. He has served as director of the New Democrat Network Hispanic Strategy Center, and chairman of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County.
In 2009, Garcia joined the Obama administration in a Senate-confirmed position as director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact in the United States Department of Energy. During his tenure at the energy department, Garcia was appointed by President Obama to the Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.
U.S. House of Representatives
Garcia announced on February 7, 2008, his candidacy for the U.S. Congress in Florida's 25th congressional district. Garcia's campaign raised over $1.8 million but incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart defeated Garcia 53%-47%. This 6% lost is easily the closest that a Democrat has come to defeating one of the Díaz-Balart brothers in a Congressional election.
In April 2010, Garcia announced his candidacy for the 25th district again, after U.S. Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart announced he would run for reelection in the 21st District being vacated by his brother, Lincoln Díaz-Balart. In his campaign announcement, Garcia stated he would focus on job creation, funding education and health care as his top priorities. Garcia defeated Luis Meurice in the Democratic primary, 76%-24%.[better source needed]
In the general election, Garcia faced State Representative David Rivera, Tea Party activist Jose 'Roly' Arrojo, and Florida Whig Party nominee Craig Porter. Rivera defeated Garcia, 52%-43%, or a 9.5-point margin.[better source needed]
In 2012, Garcia announced he would seek a rematch against Rivera in what was now the 26th district. The district 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. Not only was it more evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans than its predecessor, but Rivera's campaign was hobbled by numerous scandals. 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 Lamar Sternad, in hopes of avoiding a rematch against García. Several vendors whom Sternad employed in his campaign told the Miami Herald that Rivera had funded Sternad's campaign. Sternad himself subsequently told the FBI that Rivera had funded his campaign. Sternad's campaign manager, Ana Alliegro, was a close friend of Rivera. According to Sternad she served as the go-between.
Garcia won the rematch, defeating Rivera 54%–43%. He was the first Cuban-American Democrat to represent Florida in Congress.
In May 2013, Garcia's chief-of-staff and top political strategist went to jail after being implicated in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate the previous year’s primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.
García ran for re-election to the U.S. House in 2014. He faced Republican nominee Carlos Curbelo in the general election on November 4, 2014. According to a Washington Post article in December 2012, Garcia was one of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents in 2014. He was a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Frontline Program, designed to help protect vulnerable Democratic incumbents heading into the 2014 election. Nonetheless, Garcia lost to the Republican nominee Carlos Curbelo.
Garcia ran again to reclaim his seat but was defeated by Curbelo.
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Committee on Natural Resources
Garcia 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.
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.
Garcia endorses the political construct that the U.S. continue to allow Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba to visit family, and that other Americans to go there for "purposeful travel", such as educational tours and religious missions.
Garcia 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 the license could weaken the embargo and could eventually lead to giving Cuba access to American markets without political reform.
Garcia voted for the Farm Bill, a $1 trillion bill expanding crop insurance for farmers by $7 billion over the next decade and creating new subsidies for rice and peanut growers, but which made cuts to the food stamp program by an average of $90 per month for 1.7 million people in 15 states.
García supports developing renewable and alternative sources of energy. He opposes offshore drilling,[better source needed] and opposes any offshore energy production, hoping to develop energy industries on shore.
Garcia is the chief sponsor in the House of Representatives of a comprehensive immigration reform plan which is similar to legislation that has passed the United States Senate. If enacted, the plan would create a pathway to legalized permanent residency for millions of undocumented aliens living and working in the United States.
In January 2014, Garcia proposed 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 and 400 percent. The Miami Herald reported that the bill would apply 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."
2010 candidate funding
On September 9, 2013, the Miami Herald reported the funding of a shill candidate during Garcia's 2010 campaign. His campaign reportedly secretly funded Jose 'Roly' Arrojo, as a third party Republican primary candidate, in an effort to siphon votes from the other Republican candidate, David Rivera. Arrojo had spent thousands of dollars on mailers and a $10,440 qualifying fee without having ever filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Vendors employed in the Arrojo campaign told the Miami Herald that Garcia had funded Arrojo's campaign and that they were cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation. He was sentenced to two years probation with eight months of home confinement and a $1,000 fine.
2012 Absentee ballot scheme
In February 2013, the Miami Herald began reporting about "high-tech" hackers who had managed to make fraudulent ballot requests for the August 2012 primary election. On July 7, 2012, the first of more than 2,500 absentee ballot requests began streaming in from voters who had not requested a ballot. The Miami Herald investigation into hundreds of fraudulent ballot requests prompted Prosecutors to reopen the case. It was discovered that the fake ballot requests originated from masked Internet Protocol addresses in Miami. The investigation would conclude that Congressman Garcia’s staff had been behind the hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.
Of the three staff members involved, Jefferey Garcia (no relation), had served as campaign manager to the Congressman during his 2010 bid for the District 26 seat, and later as his chief of staff. Jefferey Garcia pled guilty, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail for orchestrating the fraudulent ballot scheme.
Lobbying on behalf of the Ethiopian government
In 2021, Garcia became a lobbyist on behalf of the government of Ethiopia as part of Mercury Public Affairs, a lobbying firm owned by Omnicom Group. Garcia was hired to lobby through the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC), which has been endorsed by Ethiopian ambassador Fitsum Arega. A copy of Garcia's contract stated that the firm will provide “government relations and media relations consulting and management services” on behalf of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. Ahmed has been accused of abetting genocide in the Tigray region, and Garcia has reportedly lobbied alongside former Senator David Vitter on congressional legislation in response to the War in Tigray.
- Oprysko, Caitlin. "Former congressman will lobby for Ethiopian government". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
- Giraldo, Jessica (April 19, 2013). "Congressman Joe Garcia, JD '91, Tells Law Students of Cuban Community's Symbolic Ties to Israel and Jewish Diaspora". University of Miami School of Law. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Representative Joe Garcia's official website Archived 2013-01-07 at the Wayback Machine, garcia.house.gov; accessed November 17, 2014.
- ourcampaigns.com.com; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Ourcampaigns.com; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Jaweed Kaleem (November 3, 2010). "Joe Garcia concedes to David Rivera". Miami Herald. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- Caputo, Marc (August 21, 2012). "Campaign vendors say Republican Congressman David Rivera funded Democrat's failed primary bid". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
- Marc Caputo; Manny Garcia (2012-09-25). "Rivera ran secret campaign, Sternad tells FBI". The Miami Herald.
- "THE TOP ELECTION 2012 HEADLINES FROM NBC 6 SOUTH FLORIDA AND NBC NEWS". WTVJ. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
- Mazzei, Patricia (May 31, 2013). "Congressman Joe Garcia's chief of staff implicated in phantom absentee-ballot requests scheme". Miami Herald. Miami, Florida. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
- Blake, Aaron (December 7, 2012). "House Democrats face long odds in 2014". Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- "DCCC Chairman Steve Israel Announces 2013-14 Frontline Members". Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. March 5, 2013. Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- "Representative Joe Garcia's Issue Positions(Political Courage Test)". Vote Smart.[dead link]
- "Joe Garcia (Democrat, district 26)". On The Issues.
- Cuban-American lawmakers press White House to keep Cuba on terror list, thehill.com; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Joe Garcia brings a different Cuban-American view to Congress, Sun Sentinel; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Rep. Garcia's push for Cuba drug trial tests support for embargo, MiamiHerald.com, October 7, 2013; accessed November 15, 2014.
- "Joe Garcia, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel sign gay marriage brief". Gay South Florida. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
- "Joe Garcia for Congress". Democracy for America.
- Weisman, Jonathan (July 24, 2013). "House Defeats Effort to Rein In N.S.A. Data Gathering". New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- "House Vote 412 - Rejects Limits on N.S.A. Data Collection". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 25, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Nixon, Ron (February 5, 2014). "Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers". New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- "Joe Garcia, D: Fla.-26". Roll Call.
- "FL Rep. Joe Garcia working to woo GOP with immigration bill they can support", nbclatino.com, November 8, 2013; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Garcia offers up proposal as Congress continues to grapple with flood insurance, "Naked Politics", miamiherald.typepad.com; accessed November 15, 2014.
- Caputo, Marc (September 9, 2013). "Former congressional staffer under second investigation". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Marc Caputo; Patricia Mazzei (June 12, 2013). "Mailer links mystery candidate to Rep. Joe Garcia camp". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Marc Caputo; Patricia Mazzei (September 3, 2014). "Feds intensify investigation on Garcia's former campaign manager". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Jay Weaver (June 10, 2015). "Court record shows ex-Rep. Joe Garcia may have known about "shadow" candidate". miamiherald.com.
- Mitch Perryon (January 26, 2018). "Twice convicted for election mischief, Jeff Garcia tries getting back into South Florida politics". floridapolitics.com.
- Mazzei, Patricia (February 23, 2013). "The case of the phantom ballots: an electoral whodunit". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- PATRICIA MAZZEI (October 21, 2013). "Ex-Aide To Miami Rep. Joe Garcia Headed To Jail In Absentee-Ballot Case". wlrn.org.
- Gil Aegerter (October 22, 2013). "Congressman's ex-chief of staff pleads guilty in online absentee ballot scheme". nbcnews.com.
- Jay Weaver (September 14, 2015). "Ex-congressman's top aide gets probation, fine for breaking election law".
- Grimm, Fred (June 3, 2013). "Surprise! Both parties cheated in Joe Garcia's district". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Mazzei, Patricia (October 21, 2013). "Jeffrey Garcia, ex-aide to Rep. Joe Garcia, pleads guilty, will serve 90 days in jail". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- "Mercury Works to Bolster Ethiopia/US Ties". O'Dwyers PR. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
- Oprysko, Caitlin. "Former congressman will lobby for Ethiopian government". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
- "Tigray conflict divides Ethiopian diaspora, complicating US policy". The Africa Report.com. 2021-08-03. Retrieved 2021-10-08.