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Posted February 07, 2008 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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Lesley Clark | Miami Herald

Joe Garcia, the Democratic strategist and former Cuban American National Foundation director, will challenge incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Garcia’s expected announcement Thursday comes on the heels of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez’s decision to take on Diaz-Balart’s older brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

‘‘This is a unique time in American history and just sitting on the sidelines and cheering isn’t enough,’’ said Garcia, who plans to relinquish his post as chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party to run for the seat. ``People of good conscience have to provide leadership and that’s something we’re sorely lacking in South Florida and have been for a long time.’‘

Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, was elected to Congress in 2002 from the West Miami-Dade congressional district he helped create as chairman of the state House’s congressional redistricting committee.

He said in an e-mailed statement that he welcomed the challenge.

‘‘Elections are a wonderful part of the democratic process,’’ the statement said. ``As I have always done, I will base my campaign on my extensive record of cutting taxes on our families and small businesses while delivering hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for our community’s needs, including transportation, healthcare and education.’‘

Diaz-Balart, who has more than $465,000 in his reelection account, is a member of the House Budget Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Science and Technology Committee.

The sprawling district includes West Miami-Dade, a sliver of Monroe County and extends to Naples in Collier County.

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