Former Congressman Joe Garcia, who lost his seat to Rep. Carlos Curbelo first in 2014 and again in last year’s bid to regain it, has joined his former campaign consultant, Juan Peñalosa, at the the mostly Democrat consulting and lobbying firm Mercury LLC, which will open an office in Miami.

Garcia’s addition as co-chairman of Mercury was announced Wednesday. He is tasked with expanding the new Miami team and the firm’s reach in Florida, across the country and south of the border.

Read related story: Joe Garcia releases first web ad in congressional contest

Which means he won’t have time to run against Curbelo or anyone else in 2018. “It’s pretty certain that I won’t be on the ballot next year,” Garcia told Ladra Wednesday morning, adding that he was excited abut this new venture in government and public affairs, which is nothing new to him.

“I’ve been in public service all my life and when this opportunity came along, it was perfect. I’m working with people I highly respect and I’ve known for a better part of a decade,” Garcia said, referring not only to Peñalosa but also Mercury Partner Ashley Walker, who he worked on the Obama for America campaign.

Said Walker: “We are excited to welcome Joe Garcia to the Mercury family. His extensive policy experience will be invaluable as we expand our footprint in Miami, and across the Sunshine State.”

During his time in Congress, Garcia, an attorney, served on the House Judiciary Committee — which is where he was caught on a C-SPAN camera in 2014 eating his own ear wax — where he was on the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security, and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. He was also a member of the Committee on Natural Resources, including its Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs; and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.

Read related story: New Joe Garcia ear wax footage — great TV, bad PR

Prior to being elected, Garcia was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to the Department of Energy as Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Garcia is also former Chairman and member of the Florida Public Service Commission. Before that, he served as board member and Executive Director of the Cuban American National Foundation, and is credited with the group’s softened stance on Cuba policy.

“We are pleased to welcome Congressman Garcia to the Mercury team. His extensive policy experience in the energy and utility sectors, as well as his deep relationships in Washington, will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” said Mercury Co-founder and CEO, Kieran Mahoney.

The job also gives Garcia an opportunity to work on the same issues that he held near and dear in D.C. — like immigration (where he is right) and the U.S.-Cuba relations and policy (where he is wrong). Garcia is attending a Haitian activists’ event Wednesday night to advocate for the expansion of Temporary Protected Status. And he wants to also preserve the Obama administration’s Cuba policy.

In addition to growing Mercury’s Miami and Florida presence, Garcia said he will be paying attention to issues and campaigns in Latin America, “which is playing a bigger role in local politics.”

Will he ever be on a ballot again? Ladra says probably.

“Public service is a calling. And I love doing it.”


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She may have been beaten, yet again, in the Democratic primary for the 26th Congressional district by the candidate annettetaddeowho lost anyway to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo Tuesday. But Annette Taddeo will not go gently into the good night. She is raging against, not a dying light, but the Republican darkness.

Taddeo is still vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, after all, and for whatever good that has done anybody. Apparently believing she is still a valid Democrat surrogate for people like Hillary Clinton and former Sen. Dwight Bullard, she has been working the Spanish TV and radio circuit in the weeks leading up to the election. She sent out an email last week also to promote the medical marijuana amendment.

You gotta admire, maybe even envy, her thick skin. But maybe she is the kiss of death. Both her candidates lost. Epic fails, man.

Then Wednesday, among the thank you emails from winners and losers alike, she sent nothing less than a digital pep talk, even encouraging we get therapy if we need it. Really.

Dear Elaine,

There is no need to repeat what we’ve already heard on the news last night and today. Many of us are grieving, scared, or still in shock. That is normal.

Today is not the day to play Monday morning quarterback. There will be time for us to regroup later, and determine what we can improve in our strategy for the next election cycle. Right now, I ask you to reach out to the people in your life who spent time on this campaign, and thank them for their hard work and the sacrifices they made. Without these dedicated organizers, interns, and volunteers, last night would have been a whole lot worse.

I strongly encourage anyone who needs help to seek it, and anyone who can help to offer it. Now, more than ever before, it is critical that we stand together and support each other. History has shown us time and time again that we can survive and thrive, even in the worst of circumstances, if only we work together.

Today we begin our efforts to emerge from the despair that has blanketed our nation with the only tool we know can overcome this, the same tool a young, energetic Senator from Illinois had the audacity to use eight years ago when we were weary from a war gone on too long and teetering on the brink of a devastating financial crisis. Hope carried us to victory in 2008 and 2012, and hope will carry us to victory again.

Last night, President Obama promised us that the sun would rise again in the morning. Today, I promise you a similar fate with the same certainty — we will rise again. Together, we will rebuild the hope that propelled all of our progress over the past eight years, and together, we will win back all that we lost last night and then some.

Today, I ask you to remind your daughters that our promise of a female president is not broken, but merely delayed. And as you remind your daughters of this, join me in recommitting to ensure that we fulfill this great promise, because you and I both know that we can achieve it together.

We are working to determine our next steps, and will keep you updated on that process. Know that I am thinking of you, and that I have faith we will get through this together.

Your friend in the fight,

Annette Taddeo

It’s actually a smart message — saying out loud what many of her core supporters and non-supporters are thinking — especially if she’s running for office again. And it sounds to me like, barring an intervention by family and friends, Taddeo may be mulling a fifth stab at it. Key words: “Next steps.”

After running for county commission, lieutenant governor and congress, twice, what is left?

Mayor of Pinecrest, perhaps?

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Most of us have been preoccupied — perhaps obsessed is a better word — with the presidential or the Miami-Dade mayoral election. But there were a lot of other races that culminated with Tuesday’s vote. Here are some highlights:

Sen. Marco Rubio beat Congressman Patrick Murphy back to gain another six years in office. Marco RubioHe has said he will serve all six years. And that is probably true — especially now that Donald Trump won the presidency. If he likes it and wants to stay, the Republican Party will have to back The Donald in 2020. So this means we will have to wait until 2024 to have our first Hispanic president. Good thing Marquito is a young man.

Rubio’s onetime BFF, former Congressman David Rivera lost his bid to go back to the State House — by 45 votes. Isn’t that close enough for a mandatory recount? His 49% showing is much better than he fared in his bid to get back into Congress in 2012, where he lost the primary with just 8 percent in a five-man field (even Joe Martinez beat him). robertdavidBut still, we have a new face in Tallahassee: Robert Asencio, a former Miami-Dade Schools Police lieutenant won one of two House seats that turned blue. Rivera had waged a negative campaign, calling Asencio a child abuser based on a 2003 complaint from the mother of a student who was physically pulled off a bus for acting inappropriately. The investigation was closed without any findings.

Read related story: ‘Child abuser’ allegations in House 118 race ring hollow

But 118 is the second of two local House seats that turned blue Tuesday after Democrat Daisy Baez eeked out a victory over Republican John Couriel to replace termed-out State Rep. Erik Fresen (who is rumored to be after J-Rod’s new Senate seat). Both of them had run previous campaigns and had the benefit of having some name recognition, despite never holding office. But Baez got just under 51% and a lead of 1,301 votes.

Former Congressman Joe Garcia lost his own bid to get his own seat back, but not as closely. There’s a glaringly wide 11-point gap between U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo‘s 52% and Garcia’s 41% performance. Ladra suspects that joecarloswhen the numbers are crunched, we’ll find a bunch of Democrats who voted for Curbelo because of his liberal ways marriage equality and sea level rise and his early rejection of Donald Trump. And I bet Garcia is rethinking those ads that compared Curbelo to Trump, who is the apparent winner of the big POTUS prize. Anyway, that giant gap in the year that Curbelo would be allegedly vulnerable — because that’s it, folks, he is welded into that seat now like IRL — should certainly encourage Garcia to stay in the private sector. Ladra said it long ago. The only person that could have beat Curbelo was Ana Rivas Logan. Too bad she decided to run for state senate. Now we’re stuck with him.

Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former Miami-Dade Commissioner and flagship of a political dynasty, migueldlpjrodlost a heated battle with State Rep. (now Sen.) Jose Javier Rodriguez, 46 to 49% — and turned the longheld Republican seat (brother Alex Diaz de la Portilla sat there for a decade before DLP took over in 2010) blue. The senior DLP outspent J-Rod more than 2 to 1, which almost proves that it is worth more to knock on 150,000 doors than it is to buy slick commercials that tries in vain to cast a liberal onetime legal aid attorney as beholden to special interests. It’s too bad. Miguel DLP was my favorite senator and, while J-Rod will likely be stymied, the incumbent actually did some good as a senior member of the majority party and may have better represented the district. Oh well. Maybe DLP will run for Coral Gables mayor next year.

Ending another political dynasty in the other really heated and mostly negative state senate race — and flipping the seat the other way — State Rep. Frank frankdwightArtiles will move to the other chamber after he beat incumbent Sen. Dwight Bullard, 51% to 41%. Guess all that business about Bullard being a terrorist worked. It’s scary to think we may see a resurgence of Artiles’ ugly bathroom legislation targeting transgenders. But does this mean he can move back into his Palmetto Bay house? He was forced to move out after Ladra caught him living outside his state House district in 2010.

There will be two runoffs for the mayor’s seat in Doral and in Miami Lakes, where none of the candidates were able to garner 50% of the vote.

Read related story: It ain’t over in Doral, Miami Lakes with mayoral runoffs

There was a big upset in the Miami-Dade School Board race where Steve Gallon III beat hollowaygallonincumbent Wilbert “Tee” Holloway III with a resounding 61%. Gallon got a lot of the community support in a district — which includes Miami Gardens, Carol City and North Miami — where Holloway was cast as an empty suit. And it earned him a 22-point lead Tuesday. The other school board seat went to Gimenez in-law Maria Teresa Rojas, as expected. Not just because she is a longtime teacher and school administrator but also because the voters in that district probably reacted vehemently to a negative campaign in which her challenger was cast as a Fidel Castro sympathizer. Look soon for an announcement of Political Cortadito’s expansion into school board coverage.

We can also smoke pot to relieve certain debilitating conditions and chill out about having our own solar energy one day as voters approved the medical marijuana constitutional amendment but rejected the amendment on solar energy choice that would have basically limited our choices and allowed Big Energy to control everything. Voters were not fooled by that one — except in Miami-Dade where we actually had a majority vote yes on this wolf in sheep’s clothing (56 to 44%). Shaking my head.

There were also a bunch of questions in municipalities from Homestead to Sunny Isles Beach and we will get to those individually if they warrant it in the next few days. Some notable examples: Voters in Palmetto Bay rejected a proposal to annex a part of West Perrine. In South Miami, they gave the green light for the building of a new City Hall. And, in North Miami Beach, voters approved a slew of charter changes, including term limits and one that makes it easier for the council to fire the city manager. Please feel free to make suggestions/ask questions.

In fact, Ladra has a feeling we will be writing and reading about the results of this ballot for weeks to come.

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The last candidate forum hosted by the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations election2016sounds like it might be a little one-sided: While three candidates have confirmed their attendance, their opponents will likely be MIA.

All of them are — surprise, surprise — incumbents.

By now, we are used to Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez skipping the neighborhood debates and forums with School Board member and mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado. He agreed to three debates only after he was forced into a runoff — two on TV and one on radio (at 10 a.m. on WMBM Thursday morning) but none in front of a live audience. You don’t have to wonder why.

But the invite from the KFHA also says that Republican incumbent State Rep. Michael Bileca had not confirmed his attendance, though his challenger, Jeffrey Solomon, will be there. 

Also not coming: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Republican incumbent joenocarloswho is apparently sending a “representative from his office” to face former Congressman Joe Garcia, who Curbelo beat in 2014 amid damaging headlines about voter fraud. He shouldn’t be allowed to send a stand-in. We are not voting for a stand-in.

Also, Ladra hopes that when he says “office,” he means someone from the campaign office, not from his government office.

It’s a shame that Gimenez, Bileca and Curbelo have so little respect for the Kendall voters that they would skip this last opportunity to reach them at a debate where they would engage with their opponent. 

Tsk, tsk.

If you want to hear the one-sided arguments from the challengers, the event begins at 7:30 p.m. at the ‘civic pavilion’ at the Kendall Village Center, 8625 SW 124 Ave. (it’s that little room in front of the movie theater).

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A group of Democrat electeds and wannabe electeds got together Friday to denounce gun violence and call antigunrallyfor gun reform at what amounted to basically a campaign stop.

Standing side by side to deliver their message of support for common sense firearm restrictions, were former Congressman Joe Garcia, who is running to get his seat back in Florida’s 26th congressional district, State Senator Dwight Bullard, who is in a heated race to keep his seat and Democratic Party candidates Debbie Mucarsel-Powel (state Senate against Anitere Flores) and Dan Horton (state House against Holly Roschein). 

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava was the only politician at the event who isn’t in a race this November. 

“We have more than 3 billion guns in this country. That’s more than we have people,” Levine Cava said, adding that gun violence is the number one cause of death for young black men between the ages of 18 and 25. 

See a video of the press conference here

“This is a national crisis, a national disaster. And it is hitting us right here are home,” she said, guncontrol2adding that it claimed the lives of too many innocents. The press conference was at Goulds Park in Southwest Dade, near a home where six teenagers at a party were shot in a drive-by recently.

Garcia said that among those innocent victims were 45 children shot in 2016 and 70 in 2015. “This isn’t some faraway war. This is happening right here in our community,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”  

Among the group of politicos also stood Regina Talabert, mother of one of the 2016 gun violence victims, 17-year-old Noricia Talabert. The South Dade High School senior had just picked up two friends at a local corner Florida City grocery store when a man opened fire on her car with an AK47 rifle about two months ago. Her mom held a large color photo of her daughter’s graduation class picture Friday.

They were also joined by Greater Goulds Optimist Club President J.L. Demps Jr. and Dr. Willy Wright of the Goulds Coalition of Ministers and Lay People who rolled out a pledge in support of common-sense gun reform and called on the attendees to advocate for an end to gun violence in our communities. They signed a Coalition pledge:

  • Support a comprehensive ban on assault weapons
  • Support background checks on all gun sales and transfers — including elimination of the gun show loophole
  • Support legislation to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists
  • Support a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines
  • Oppose legislation that allows concealed weapons on schools and other sensitive areas

“The legislation we are fighting for will make a difference and save lives,” said Garcia, who has challenged U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who beat him in 2014 amid headlines about absentee ballot fraud in Garcia’s campaign.

Read related story: Joe Garcia releases first web ad in congressional contest

“I’m asking Republicans to have some courage and take a stand for once,” Garcia said. “If Carlos Curbelo would rather pocket contributions from the NRA than save lives, then I challenge him to tell these families that cash for his reelection matters more than their safety.”

Garcia said that 90% of Americans want gun control reform and seemed especially troubled by the gun show loophole.

“In this district, here in South Florida, we have one of the largest gun shows in the country, where gunshowsyou can walk in and buy a weapon with absolutely zero background check,” Garcia said. “These weapons end up on these streets, killing our kids. It’s unacceptable. We have to stop it.”

A Garcia campaign spokesman said they had tracked at least $44,000 in contributions to Curbelo directly from the NRA alone. They believe the support is over $50,000. Curbelo has voted against background checks and to relax gun restrictions, has gone on TV to say gun control is not the answer and, with the rest of the GOP, blocked debate in 2015 on legislation to ban the sale of guns to individuals on the no fly list.

Read related story: Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo agree on Zika

He must have changed his mind because this past summer, after the mass shooting tragedy atcurbelo2 Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Curbelo filed bipartisan legislation to ban sales to suspected terrorists. Garcia immediately called it pandering. 

The Brady Campaign, one of the nation’s leading anti-gun violence advocacy groups has rated Curbelo — a lobbyist who put his firm in his wife’s name so he wouldn’t have to reveal who he lobbied for — as a “lap dog” for the NRA. 

Hey, maybe they are one of his secret clients.

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The government response to Zika has been slow and chaotic. But the politicians’ response to it has been zika mosquitoquick and consistent — as far as campaigning goes.

Election in the Time of Zika ought to be a how-to for any candidate on a South Florida ballot in November.

The latest to get in on the buzz is former Congressman Joe Garcia, who wants to take his seat back from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who took it two years ago amid bad headlines. Garcia will have a press conference this morning — alongside South Florida doctors, nurses, mothers-to-be and concerned residents — to demand congressional leadership take action and approve urgently needed Zika funding.

Read related story: Zika politics: State House candidate has repellent wristbands

Today marks 2oo days since President Barack Obama proposed in February $1.9 billion in federal emergency money, a request Congress has to approve. Garcia, who has called on the House Speaker  to cut their break short so they can address the Zika crisis, says that, for 200 days, Curbelo and his fellow House Republicans have failed South Florida’s families.

“The rapid spread of Zika during Congress’s 7-week vacation should have resulted in the immediate approval of a funding bill, not more obstruction from the Republican leadership. We’re coming together to demand that Congress and Carlos Curbelo put the rhetoric aside, approve the funding immediately and do what’s right for South Florida’s families.”

But as much as Ladra dislikes him for other reasons (mostly because he is a liar and a lobbyist with a secret client list), Curbelo may as well joecarlosstand with Garcia at this presser because the congressman has broken party ranks on the Zika funding issue. In May, Curbelo met with Gov. Rick Scott and other members of Congress and urged for the federal funding to be passed.

“As representatives from the state of Florida, we understand the real threat that Zika poses to our families and neighbors,” Curbelo was quoted as saying.

He voted against the House Republicans compromise bill for $622 million in funding, because he said it was too little.

Read related story: Joe Garcia releases first web ad in congressional contest

“As a Member of Congress representing the country’s southernmost district — closest to the region where this disease is currently wreaking havoc — I am acutely aware of the impacts Zika will have if not contained and eradicated,” Curbelo said in a statement. “I cannot vote for this half-hearted, short-zikamosquitoessighted effort, and I remain in strong support of funding the Administration’s $1.9 billion Zika response requests.”

Maybe Democrats think Curbelo should do more but Ladra is not sure what more he can do — other than maybe jar mosquitoes up and take them to D.C. to visit with the Republicans who don’t want to pass the funding.

So when Joe Garcia gets up to the podium at Big Bear Academy, a school for children with special needs — which there might be a lot more of if this Zika outbreak is not contained — take what he says with a grain of salt. It’s just a campaign stop.

Because on Zika, like on many other things, both these candidates agree.

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