Keys voters will choose between a current member of Congress and a veteran campaigner to fill a new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives when they go to the polls Nov. 6.
The 26th Congressional District was created through reapportionment as a result of the 2010 Census. It contains all of Monroe County as well as a portion of Miami-Dade.
Republican David Rivera, who has represented the 25th District, is now seeking election to the 26th District seat.
Joe Garcia, who challenged Rivera in his last bid for office and also sought the 25th District seat two years prior, faces off against him after winning last month's Democratic primary. Garcia and his chief primary opponent, Gloria Romero Roses, both campaigned heavily in the Keys.
Garcia has announced as his priority a plan to lower property insurance by creating a National Catastrophic Insurance pool, and has pledged to secure federal money for wastewater systems in the Keys.
He has described the race between himself and Rivera as a question of "who can voters trust and who has broken the public trust."
Rivera, who stands on his record of past service, was elected to the 25th District in 2010.
A former member of the Florida House, he counts as his accomplishments aiding insurance reform after catastrophic hurricanes and work on overhauling the state's property tax system.
"The Florida Keys is by far the most beautiful part of the district and I want to serve you every day in Congress," Garcia said. "This means being honest and forthright. I will have full-time staff based in the Keys and will personally hold monthly "open house" office hours throughout the Keys. Working together to create jobs, lowering property insurance, securing wastewater system funds or protecting our shores from drilling I know that we can accomplish great things. Our community has been embarrassed by politicians who have broken the public trust, now it is time to move forward in a positive way."
Garcia, former executive director the Cuban American National Foundation, was President Barack Obama's choice to head the Office of Minority Economic Impact and Diversity of the U.S. Department of Energy. He is a former member of the Florida Public Service Commission.
Rivera, a New York City native, worked for the Washington D.C.-based Valladares Foundation, an international human rights group. He has also worked for the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting and taught at Florida International University's School of Policy and Management.
His re-election campaign has recently been dogged by serious allegations, resulting in an ongoing FBI probe.
He has been accused of helping pay for campaign literature printed for Lamar Sternad, an unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate. Sternad has not listed any such literature in his campaign finance reports, nor any contributions from Rivera. Sternad has not returned calls.
A Rivera campaign spokesman, Javier Correoso, maintains that Rivera has never met Sternad, never spoken to him and knows nothing about him or his campaign.
Asked how Rivera plans to incorporate the Keys into his strategy of representation, Correoso answered that the congressman has been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support throughout the Keys.
"He will work tirelessly to preserve the rich natural resources and environmental quality that make the Florida Keys such a special place," Correoso said.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), who represents the Keys until January 2013, was cited as an "example of service to all the residents of Monroe County."
"As an example of this commitment, Congressman Rivera has begun work to designate the Seven Mile Bridge as a national landmark to ensure the preservation of this critical infrastructure resource," Correoso said. "This is the same type of dedication and commitment that he will bring to all issues of concern to Keys residents."
Garcia's campaign staff members have expressed confidence that this time around their candidate can best the sitting congressman.
"It's a totally new district that is much better for Democrats and Joe Garcia," said his campaign manager, Jeff Garcia. The candidate plans to win the election, he said, through reliance on a positive message of tackling problems like property insurance, as well as wastewater issues.
"Joe's message remained positive, he knocked on the door of thousands of voters personally, and his volunteers visited tens of thousands more," Jeff Garcia said when asked about the primary campaign.