Florida Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, said he is “seriously considering” running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., in Congress.
Speaking with Sunshine State News on Monday, Garcia kept the door open to running, saying he was taking a look at the job after Ros-Lehtinen announced on Sunday that she would not run again in 2018.
Garcia said he would make a final decision after the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.
The South Florida Republican interned in Ros-Lehtinen's office from 1993-1997. The experience, Garcia told SSN, greatly shaped how he legislates and runs his own office in Tallahassee.
"I’m waiting for this session to be over with, but I interned at Ileana’s office for quite some time,” Garcia said. “I modeled my office exactly after hers. She has done an excellent job in constituent services and has been a true voice for so many. To follow in her footsteps would be an honor for me but, to this point, I have to wait until session is over with to make a decision.
"She’s made the cornerstone of her political career constituent services,” he added. “We need to serve our constituents and make sure their voices are heard and that’s why I’m seriously considering this position."
Asked by Sunshine State News about the challenges of running in a Democratic leaning district in which Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump by almost 20 percent, Garcia said the voters knew who he was and were familiar with his record.
“I’ve always been a legislator working on many social issues,” Garcia said. I’m a fiscal conservative and I think [those are the values] people are striving to have today."
Currently the chairman of the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee and the vice chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, Garcia has been active in South Florida politics for two decades. Garcia served on the Hialeah City Commission in the late 1990s before being elected to the Florida House in 2000 where he served until 2008 when he faced term limits. In 2010, after two years away from Tallahassee, Garcia was elected to serve in the Florida Senate where he currently represents parts of Miami Dade.
Garcia could face a crowded primary field. After challenging Ros-Lehtinen in the Republican primary last year, businessman David Adams had been angling for a rematch and had filed to run again. Possible other Republican candidates include Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Miami Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and former Miami Dade County School Board Member Raquel Regalado.