Friday, September 12, 2008

FL-25: Sen. Bob Graham in festive endorsement of Joe Garcia

Joe Garcia and Bob Graham in the center of the crowd after Graham endorsed Garcia for Congress on Friday.

Some history lessons leap out at you with road signs. Well, today it was a sidewalk sign saying this building in the center of Kendall’s Miami-Dade College was the Dante Fascell Conference Center, and this was where Sen. Bob Graham was going to issue his endorsement of Joe Garcia for Congress in FL-25.

Joe Garcia is fighting to oust Bush rubber-stamp Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and he was reminded repeatedly during the endorsement ceremony that he has very large shoes to fill since one of his predecessors would be the late Dante Fascell, congressman from South Florida for 38 years until 1993.

Most prominently, said Garcia’s former teacher Patrick Collins, Fascell stood alone as a Southern congressman who refused to sign the racist Southern Manifesto in 1956. That manifesto opposed the 1954 Supreme Court decision mandating an end to school segregation. It must have been like a profile in courage for a first-term Florida congressman to take that stand.

We shall hope fervently for Joe Garcia to be as principled and brave, and Collins suggested it was possible, since the young high school student developed “a zeal to ask penetrating questions and to question long-standing assumptions.”

Next speaker: Francisco “Pepe” Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, hired Garcia right out of UM Law School and let him loose on a project that united thousands of far-flung Cubans with their families at no cost to the federal government.

“I am going to do my best” to elect Joe, said this pillar of the Cuban American community.

State Sen. Larcenia Bullard fired up the SRO crowd of students, supporters, reporters and six camera crews with chants of “Yes we will!”

The next speaker, Braulio L. Baez, said he’d always be for Joe despite being a “confirmed Republican” who had been appointed twice by Republican governors of Florida to head a state agency. He and Joe have both had the title of chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission. And both had their hair cut by Joe’s mother.

Bob Graham, former senator, former governor, onetime protégé of Dante Fascell, took the stage after having spent an earlier hour of the morning doing a conference call with the media for the Barack Obama campaign, focused on veterans’ issues. (I know, I was listening to it on my cell’s earbuds while driving to the Joe Garcia event.)

Graham blamed excessive partisanship as the main reason for “Washington is broken” but said “relief is on the way” in the form of the Obama campaign for president and Joe Garcia’s drive for congress.

“I am pleased to join you in endorsing Joe Garcia to be congressman from District 25,” Graham said, then introducing Garcia, who complimented him saying that this country would have been much better if John Kerry had selected Graham as his running mate in 2004.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Garcia ripped into his opponent for not being willing to ease restrictions on helping people in Cuba suffering from two disastrous storms, Gustav and Ike. “My opponent’s position is absurd, it’s patently cruel,” Garcia said. “We want the U.S. government to get out of the way and let people help their family and friends.”

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