3rd UPDATE: Diaz-Balart holds narrow lead over Garcia


Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart, R-Miami, was running slightly ahead of challenger Joe Garcia, D-Miami, late Tuesday with most precincts reporting.

Each candidate seemed to be carrying about 50 percent of voters in Miami-Dade County, until Diaz-Balart pulled ahead as the night progressed.

However, in Collier, Diaz-Balart had about 53 percent or 13,510 votes compared with Garcia’s 46.9 percent or 11,830 votes.

In Collier, about 1,000 misprinted ballots are to be counted today along with some absentee ballots that hadn’t been tallied as of Tuesday night.

U.S. House District 25 encompasses the western portion of Miami-Dade County, a large part of eastern Collier County, and a portion of mainland Monroe County, an area that is sparsely populated.

The 395,695 eligible voters in District 25’s three counties turned out in force to influence the complexion of political decisions coming out of Washington for the next few years.

While Diaz-Balart, 47, is better known in Collier County, Garcia, 45, is a director of the politically influential Cuban American National Foundation, as well as chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.

Garcia has garnered strong support from Cuban-Americans, who have traditionally voted Republican.

The party breakdown of registered voters for the three counties are as follows: 140,147 Democrats; 112,089 Independents; and 143,459 Republicans.

A precinct-by-precinct breakdown from Miami wasn’t immediately available, but with 580 of the 765 precincts reporting, Diaz-Balart had 85,049 votes, or 51.06 percent of the vote, with Garcia receiving 81,510 or 48.94 percent of the vote.

According to the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Office, there are only 25 to 30 registered voters in mainland Monroe who were eligible to vote in this race.

Diaz-Balart, 47, was seeking his fourth term.

A big issue between the candidates was scheduling a debate.

Garcia accused Diaz-Balart of avoiding debate, while Diaz-Balart said the timing just wasn’t right.

Ultimately, they debated twice in Miami. They didn’t debate in Collier.

Their economic views are similar, stressing job creation and retention, and keeping folks in their homes.

Their fundraising efforts were comparable. By Oct. 15, Garcia raised $1.48 million while Diaz-Balart raised $1.63 million.

Diaz-Balart has a degree in political science from the University of South Florida. His first elected office was in 1988 as a state representative. Married to Tia, the couple has a son, Christian, 3.

Garcia is married to Aileen Ugalde. The couple has one daughter, Gabriela, 10. Garcia did his undergraduate work at University of Miami, earning degrees in political science and public affairs. He obtained his law degree from University of Miami’s School of Law in 1991.

Garcia led the Cuban American’s Exodus Project, which reunited thousands of families that had been scattered throughout the world.

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