A bellwether race in South Florida

Incumbent Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was below 50 percent in the polls before the voting started.


Tristram Korten
November 5, 2008 5:45AM (UTC)

One local race in Florida that says a lot about how things might change is the battle in Congressional District 25, which runs through three counties in South Florida.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is polling at less than 50 percent against Joe Garcia. That means trouble for the six-year incumbent, especially since the race is a statistical dead heat.

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What's got everyone watching this contest is that Diaz-Balart, 47, is a Cuban in the hard-line-exile mold. That he might lose to a Democrat -- with a slightly softer stance toward the communist island -- shows how topsy-turvy this election season is. (Forty-five-year-old Garcia, also Cuban, is the former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and also well known to his constituents.)

With 30 minutes until polls closed Garcia was in the outer Miami suburb of West Kendall at a polling station where the wait was three hours. People brought chairs and food and were patiently waiting it out. Something like 7,000 voters had passed through the station, which serves two precincts. "As of last night over 5,000 registered voters here had not voted yet," Garcia aide Melissa Agudelo said. "This is going to be a long haul."

This small race is a harbinger for how the tide may have shifted in the Democrats' favor within a reliable Republican constituency.

And coupled with record turnout in black neighborhoods throughout Florida during 14 days of early voting, Democrats are praying they have a one-two punch to counter a well-oiled Republican machine that has turned the state red the last two elections.


Tristram Korten

Tristram Korten is a journalist living in Miami Beach.

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