Joe Garcia: Latino Voters Turn Florida Blue, Send First Cuban American to...

Joe Garcia: Latino Voters Turn Florida Blue, Send First Cuban American to Congress


By Iris Estrada

Visiting hole-in-the-wall Latino restaurants, upping the number of Spanish-language ads, and passionately promoting the DREAM Act — the Obama campaign took strong measures to appeal to the Latino community in Florida.

A smart move considering Latinos make up the fastest-growing demographic in the United States and showed a boost of four times the overall population growth in the heavily Republican Sunshine State.

Data gathered by ImpreMedia shows Latino voters in Florida named the economy and jobs as the most important issue in this election (57%). This was followed by immigration (35%), education (13%), and healthcare (12%).

Obama’s outreach strategies paid off, with polls saying the President won 62% of the Latino vote in Florida, up from 57%  in 2008.

Among these Latino voters was a large chunk of Cuban-Americans who traditionally lean Republican.

According to Bendixen & Amandi International — research and media consultants to the Obama Hispanic campaign — Democrats showed progress persuading the Cuban-American voting block, harnessing as much as 40% of their support. Record-breaking numbers since Bill Clinton’s 35% in 1996.

Obama wasn’t the only victor in Tuesday’s election. Florida’s 26th District (which extends from Kendall to Key West) elected Joe Garcia to congress, Miami’s first Cuban-American Democratic representative.

Garcia beat Republican nominee and fellow Cuban-American, David Rivera, 54% to 43%. After a decade-long political career, it was the first time Rivera ever lost at the polls.

Two key factors helped the Democrat snag the win.

For starters, the district that gave Garcia his win was redrawn by Legislature earlier this year, bringing in more than 8,600 new Democrats.

It also didn’t hurt that Garcia’s opponent was the subject of finance scandals that led to two federal investigations and claims of ethics violations by the state ethics commission.

Rivera is accused of attempting to interfere in August’s Democratic primary by handing out $40,000 in cash to the campaign of newcomer Justin Sternad, running against Garcia at the time.

Federal authorities also investigated the congressman’s finances last year due to a secret $500,000 dog-track payment Rivera had arranged.

So what should citizens in Florida expect with Garcia taking a seat in congress?

Support for comprehensive immigration reform, promotion of the DREAM Act, and acceptance of the Obama administration’s policy that allows remittances to Cuba and makes it possible for more people to visit the island.

Garcia also released a 26-point economic plan for his district aimed at reducing the debt and strengthening the middle class.

The new congressman believes people who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments due to economic hardships should have their mortgage principal written down.

Can’t afford the reduced payments? Garcia says you should be given the option of changing your mortgage to a multi-year lease with the option to buy at a low rate if your finances improve.

When it comes to the labor market, Garcia wants to reform SEC laws to allow more tech start-ups and small business to flourish and create new jobs. He also finds it necessary to modernize infrastructure and promote the pursuit of careers in science and technology to help secure the creation of jobs in the future.

Garcia advocates for a change in corporate tax rates which, at 35%, are the second highest in the world. He says it’s important to make it easier for companies to create jobs on US soil and says corporations who pay below the national average need to be forced to pay their fair share.

In late October, Garcia said “South Florida is a beacon of hope throughout the world” and that he “still (believed) in the promise of South Florida.”

To find out more about what Garcia has in store for Congress and his district, visit