Two South Florida politicians whom Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo listed last week as part of a 22-member Democratic "coalition" that backs his re-election say they didn't exactly give the freshman congressman their endorsement.
Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Vice-Mayor Stephen Shelley separately told the Miami Herald that while they are supportive of the work Curbelo has done since his term began in January, they're not ready to pick a candidate in the 2016 Congressional District 26 race. Curbelo has already been challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo.
"After the election, he's been down here three or four times trying to understand our community, and so I support the fact that he's following through on his promises," Porter said.
But, he added: "We're far away from an election. All of the candidates, if they're going to run for election, have got to prove their worth. It's a little too soon for anyone to say I would support or not support someone in the next election. He basically just got elected."
Porter was even listed as co-host to Taddeo's first fundraiser.
"We had a conversation, and he told me he was putting together a list of Democrats who were supportive of his efforts and of trying to do bipartisan work," Shelley said. "I told him I support the efforts he's done. But it wasn't election-oriented. It wasn't endorsement-oriented. It was just a general, 'I'm supportive of his efforts, of what he's done in office so far.'"
Curbelo boasted the endorsements in an April 20 news release. "The initial list of coalition members includes over 20 South Florida Democrats who have committed to supporting the freshman's reelection effort," the release says. He has since been listed as No. 3 on National Journal's "power rankings" of freshmean members of Congress.
"I take them at their word from my conversation and appreciate their support," Curbelo told the Herald on Friday.
Taddeo's camp has been reaching out to others on his list to find out if they did endorse him -- and why -- but declined to name others who might dispute Curbelo's account.
"It's a real shame that an elected official would put out an incorrect statement, but I think that Annette Taddeo is a strong candidate for this district, and and I guess he thought that's what he had to do to position himself for the election," said Shaun Daniels, Taddeo's campaign manager.
One of the most striking names on Curbelo's list is Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, a stalwart Democrat who appeared in political advertisements with former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, the man Curbelo defeated last year. The Herald tried to reach Wallace at his office Tuesday, but he didn't return a message left with an assistant.
On Thursday, he told a reporter who reached him on his cell phone that she was "rude" for interrupting the meeting he was in when he answered the call. He didn't call back.
Municipal elected officials, who in Miami-Dade County serve in non-partisan posts, struggle with early endorsements because -- even if they want to help other candidates in their party -- they have to work with incumbents. Cities rely on Congress to get federal funding or approval for projects, so it's in city mayors' and commissioners' interest to remain in their federal counterparts' good graces.
"I try not to do endorsements, unless you're family or a longtime family friend," Shelley said. "Nothing good ever comes out of it."