Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo handily held onto his seat on Tuesday in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country after turning back a challenge from the Democrat he unseated two years ago, Joe Garcia.
With most of the vote counted, Curbelo was ahead by 12 points in the battleground 26th Congressional District, which sprawls from Westchester to Key West, despite a redrawing that pushed its electoral make-up to the left after the Republican ousted Garcia in 2014. The new district’s demographics put the incumbent, who fashioned himself as one of a dwindling species — a moderate Republican — at something of a disadvantage.
But Curbelo carefully threaded the political needle, pointedly repudiating GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, while bolstering his credentials with conservative Cuban Americans in the ethnically and politically diverse district by criticizing Garcia, a former head of the Cuban American National Foundation, for his support of President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.
Curbelo, who at one point compared Trump to the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, also said he would not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, but never publicly revealed his presidential vote despite persistent goading from Garcia.
Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald