Republicans breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night as their pick to take on Rep. Joe GarciaJoe GarciaClean energy group backs Republican in Florida race Hispanic Caucus PAC looks to flex its muscles in 2016 Wake up, Democrats — Koch empire targets 2016 Hispanic vote MORE (D-Fla.), Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo, easily beat out embattled former Rep. David Rivera (R) for his party’s nomination.
Curbelo took 48 percent of the vote, when The Associated Press called the race, while Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall took 25 percent and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez drew 17 percent support.
Rivera barely registered with voters, drawing 8 percent when the race was called, further underscoring the damage his profile in the district's taken due to investigations into various alleged campaign finance and ethics violations. A week out from the primary, a close friend of his pleaded guilty to criminal campaign finance violations — and named Rivera as a co-conspirator.
But Curbelo was long seen as the frontrunner, earning a spot on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” list of top candidates and receiving help from prominent GOP figures like former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Democrats are hopeful, however, the contested primary has left Curbelo in a difficult position heading into the general, where Garcia is considered one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents.
They say he’s taken a hard-line position on the crisis caused by a flood of immigrant children at the nation’s southern border, pointing to his repeated assertions that every child should be reunited with their family as evidence he’s for full deportation. And they believe his lobbying background could give them an opening, and have been pressuring him to release his list of clients.