What do the Everglades, Key West, and Homestead, Florida have in common?

Nothing, except that they are all represented by freshman Democrat Joe Garcia in Florida’s newly created 26th congressional district.

While the primaries are not until Aug. 26,  Republican Carlos Curbelo has all but secured the party nomination as the clear GOP front-runner to challenge Garcia in November. Curbelo currently serves on the Miami-Dade County School Board overseeing the nation’s fourth largest school district.

Curbelo carries a slew of important Florida Republican endorsements, including those from FL27 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, FL25 Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives Will Weatherford.

Curbelo has not had a lot of media exposure, so his positions on national issues are not as well defined to the public as those who have been on the national stage. He did say in a Fox Business interview that the economy is suffering due to “self-inflicted wounds” like the failed Obama stimulus and unreformed pensions.

Garcia has taken up clearly leftist ideology in almost all respects. He does not support the repeal of Obamacare (though he voted for its delays and caveats), wants to grant DREAMers in-state tuition, wants to continue government funding of alternative energy, and is the main sponsor of immigration reform bill H.R. 15, which is highly controversial and allegedly a lead up to outright amnesty.

In late May Garcia made national news when reports surfaced that in a Google Hangout discussion with constituents he made this bizarre statement laced with non-sequiturs: “Two of the safest cities in America, two of them are on the border with Mexico. And of course, the reason is we’ve proved that communism works. If you give everybody a good, government job, there’s no crime. But that isn’t what we should be doing on the border.”

Expectedly, Garcia immediately backtracked on this self-destructive statement, commenting that that communism is, in fact, “evil.” He excused his gaffe in an NBC interview saying, “I’m making an analogy, and, and that’s part of what happens.” Perhaps these glimpses into Garcia’s method of thinking explain why he failed to pass the bar exam.

Curbelo immediately pounced on Garcia, tweeting that he “hates Communism.” The LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Hispanic group, launched an ad campaign, in Spanish, targeting Garcia in further dramatic fashion. As Cuban-Americans vying for a district where 58% of residents are Cuban, rhetoric concerning communism goes a long way.

A week prior to this more serious escapade, Garcia was caught on live television on CSPAN picking his ear and putting the same finger in his mouth during a House hearing:

The congressman blamed the incident on hangnails.

Both Curbelo and Garcia were born in Miami to Cuban exile parents. They also attended the same high school (at different times), and both studied at University of Miami.

Upon graduating college in 2002 Curbelo founded a small media and research firm, Capitol Gains. In 2009 he directed a state senator’s office, advising on Latin American and Hispanic policy issues and overseeing seven state offices. Curbelo was elected in 2010 to the Miami-Dade County School Board representing southwest Miami, where he has advocated for fiscal responsibility and great parental involvement. In 2012 Miami-Dade was designated one of the most improved urban school districts.

Garcia has chaired the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade County, the Florida Public Service Commission, and was a member of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, among many other government and Democrat entities. In 2009, he was confirmed by the Senate to serve as director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact for the Department of Energy.

In 2008 and 2010 Garcia unsuccessfully ran for the FL25 House seat, losing by six and nine point margins, respectively. His fortune reversed in 2012 when we won FL26 by a seven point margin largely due the scandals that sank otherwise popular Republican candidate David Rivera, who crushed Garcia in 2010.

FL26 was created after the 2010 census and comprises all of Monroe County, which mainly consists of the Everglades and the Florida Keys, and southwest Miami-Dade County, including Homestead and parts of Kendall. The district’s political split stems from the Democrat Monroe County (think Florida Keys) being balanced out by the more conservative regions of southwest Miami-Dade (think Reagan Cubans).

Despite being bordered by Republican districts FL25 and FL27 to the north and east and ocean everywhere else, Cook Political Report rates FL26 as a tossup district.

Cook’s Partisan Voting Index for this district is R+1, meaning it is 1% more Republican than the national average.  Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings labels the district “tilts Democratic” and notes Obama carried it in 2012 with 53% of the vote.

Hispanics comprise 68% of the district, and considering Hispanics voted for Obama over Romney in 2012 by 71% to 27%, a Republican victory in this district is crucial to the GOP’s desire to garner more Hispanic votes—without compromising on amnesty.