Embattled former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) is looking for a rematch with Rep. Joe GarciaJoe GarciaWake up, Democrats — Koch empire targets 2016 Hispanic vote Immigration action jolts '16 races WHIP COUNT: Mad scramble for votes to keep government funded MORE (D-Fla.).
Rivera’s decision could complicate Republican hopes of taking down Garcia, who is one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents this cycle.
The GOP already has a strong recruit in the race in Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo, who has the backing of such establishment figures as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. On Thursday night, he immediately went on the attack against Rivera, tying him and Garcia together by the scandals they’ve faced.
"Now more than ever our campaign is about putting an end to the scandals and the corruption that have plagued our community for far too long. The unethical conduct of public officials in both parties — including incumbent Joe Garcia — has landed people in jail and embarrassed the residents of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties,” he said in a statement.
“We will run a clean campaign focused on reestablishing the public trust and putting an end to this sad chapter in our community's history."
Garcia’s staff troubles — two of his top aides resigned last year, and one was jailed, after they were implicated in an election fraud scandal — have given Republicans fodder for attacks.
And Rivera’s own legal troubles are likely to create similar problems for him in the primary. He’s previously been charged with state ethics violations for misusing campaign funds and filing fake financial disclosure forms.
Though he avoided indictment for 52 counts, including money laundering and racketeering, concerning his alleged misuse of campaign funds — charges which state prosecutors said would be too difficult to prosecute — he remains the focus of an ongoing federal investigation for allegedly funding a shadow campaign against Garcia in last cycle’s primary.
On the political talk show "Ahora con Óscar Haza," Rivera dismissed the investigation, the Miami Herald reports.
“I will not answer to the lies of the Miami Herald,” he said. “I will not deviate from the issues and [will] defeat Joe Garcia."
Rivera said he’s running due to a “leadership crisis,” calling Garcia “incompetent.”
Garcia declined comment about the Republican.