Ex-Rep. Garcia wins Florida Dem primary for competitive House seat

Former Rep. Joe GarciaJose (Joe) Antonio GarciaOvernight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Biden pays tribute to McCain at emotional memorial service Mueller indictments: Congressional candidate asked Russian operatives for info on opponent MORE (D-Fla.) pulled off a comeback bid on Tuesday in a Democratic primary and will face off against GOP freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo in one of the most competitive House races this year.

With 223 of 227 precincts reporting, Garcia led Annette Taddeo by some 700 votes, 51 percent to 49 percent, The Associated Press reported. 

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Taddeo was backed by the Democratic establishment in the fight for Garcia's old seat representing Florida's 26th district. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which serves as House Democrats’ campaign arm, had backed Taddeo over Garcia.

Establishment Democrats viewed Garcia as a weaker candidate because of a string of legal controversies that have dogged the ex-congressman in recent years. Garcia’s former campaign manager went to prison for a fraudulent online absentee ballot scheme during Garcia’s 2012 House campaign. 

And in 2010, a former Garcia campaign aide illegally financed a third-party candidate as a means of taking votes away from the Republican in the race, David Rivera.

Still, a leaked DCCC memo posted by a hacker going by the name Guccifer 2.0 showed concerns that Taddeo's previous three failed runs for office might make her look like an “incompetent candidate” and that Garcia had more name recognition in the district.

Taddeo lost a race for lieutenant governor in 2014 as Charlie Crist’s running mate. She also unsuccessfully ran against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in 2008 and for county commissioner in 2010.

The DCCC noted that Garcia had made a number of embarrassing gaffes during his 2014 campaign.

"Garcia also made a large misstep during the campaign saying 'communism works' which did not sit well in an area with a large Cuban refugee population. More embarrassingly, Garcia was caught on a C-SPAN feed picking his earwax and seemingly eating it and the video made the rounds on the internet," the memo stated.

Democrats see the southern Florida district, which encompasses Key West and part of Miami-Dade County, as a prime pick-up opportunity in November. The district has a large Hispanic population and Democrats hold an advantage over Republicans in voter registration.

Garcia narrowly lost to Curbelo in 2014 by just 4 points, 52 to 48 percent. He only served a single two-year term in the House after defeating Rivera in 2012.

Curbelo was touted as one of the GOP’s rising stars when he won the seat two years ago. He is one of the youngest members of the House GOP conference and one of its only six Hispanic members.

Curbelo has developed a more centrist voting record in the House as a swing district representative. He has distanced himself from the party's presidential nominee, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE, over the last year and vowed against ever voting for him.

So far, Curbelo has vastly outraised his Democratic opponent. He has raised $2.8 million for his reelection campaign since last January, according to the most recent fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Aug. 10.

Taddeo raised nearly $1.5 million, while Garcia raked in just over $600,000.