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Two More Republicans Announce Challenges to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

February 26, 2012 - 6:00pm

Two more Republicans have jumped in to challenge Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Broward County's GOP chairman says a "spirited primary" will help the party "put our best foot forward."

Gineen Bresso and Juan Eliel Garcia joined the Republican contest in the 23rd Congressional District, bringing the number of GOP hopefuls there to six.

Previously announced candidates, as reported by Sunshine State News, are Karen Harrington, Joe Goldner, Joe Kaufman and Ozzie DeFaria.

Bresso, an appointee to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, returned to South Florida to run a consulting firm and make her first run for public office. Pledging "A New Way Forward," Bresso says the Broward/Miami-Dade district "needs a full-time representative."

"Wasserman Schultz spends too much time running around the country," said Bresso, noting the congresswoman's partisan position as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Though her Boca Raton residence is outside the Broward/Miami-Dade district lines drawn by state lawmakers, Bresso says she is familiar with both the region and Washington, D.C.

As former counsel to the Committee on House Administration for the U.S. House of Representatives, Bresso said she knows the federal budget process "and how to make it work for people."

Garcia, a Spanish-language radio host from Pembroke Pines, is also a first-time candidate. His strengths, he says, include a connection to the Hispanic community.

"It's an open secret that for the GOP to win, it needs Hispanic voters," said Garcia, who intimated that he expects to receive the endorsements of local Hispanic chambers of commerce in the area.

Garcia is convinced that Wasserman Schultz's "time is up."

"Even the Democrats are tired of her," he said.

Broward County Republican Chairman Richard DeNapoli says the party would "love to beat Wasserman Schultz," but admits "it will be a difficult race."

"She can get millions of dollars from the DNC, which makes her a formidable candidate. Hopefully, we can take her out," he said.

If there's a silver lining for the GOP, it's Barack Obama's declining popularity since 2008 and a slight shift in CD 23's party registration. Previously listed as +12 for Democrats, the new boundaries show a +10 edge for Wasserman Schultz's party.

"A lot of candidates bring a lot of attention. Whoever the nominee is will have a decent shot," DeNapoli predicted. "We'll try to help out and unite behind the winner."

Meanwhile, the primary jousting has become more pointed.

DeFaria recently posted an advertisement showing Wasserman Schultz sporting a dog collar.

On Saturday, an anonymous Craigslist ad called for a Bible burning at Harrington's restaurant in Pembroke Pines. No one showed up.

Goldner, who has taken to calling Harrington a "political whore who pretends to be something she's not," theorized that the Craigslist gambit was a religion-baiting publicity scheme cooked up by her campaign.

Without naming names, Harrington's camp said of the non-event: "It is unfortunate that there are individuals who feel the need to delve into gutter politics. This is expected behavior from someone who is unbalanced, and has no place in politics."

Like their fellow GOP candidates, and unlike Wasserman Schultz and her $1 million-plus war chest, neither Bresso nor Garcia can point to mountains of cash. The Federal Elections Commission website shows just $3,150 in campaign contributions to Garcia and none yet for Bresso.

But the challengers are undaunted.

"This is no longer about money," Garcia asserts. "People are tired of money pushers."

Contact Kenric Ward at or at (772) 801-5341.

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