October 02, 2018

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is outspending Carlos Curbelo on TV. Will it pay off?

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@alextdaugherty

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has been running against Carlos Curbelo for more than a year, but the last three weeks could prove pivotal in her quest to unseat one of the Republican Party’s strongest candidates.

Mucarsel-Powell and her Democratic allies are spending around $1 million on billingual television and radio advertising this week, a spending pace that’s been in place since mid-September, according to a source familiar with media buying in the district. Though Mucarsel-Powell hasn’t been able raise more money than Curbelo, one of the GOP’s best fundraisers, she’s outspending him.

The aggressive pace is shifting momentum in one of the nation’s most-watched congressional races, in which Curbelo has seen his chances of reelection improve in the eyes of most prognosticators in recent weeks despite a national environment that favors Democrats. Mucarsel-Powell has peppered the airwaves with a biographical ad and an ad that touts Democrats’ efforts on healthcare in a district where more than 90,000 people are enrolled in the program.

The Mucarsel-Powell campaign “went up [on TV] before the primary and they have not come down since then, and the campaign has no plan to decrease this communication,” the source familiar with media buying said. “This wasn’t an early ‘I’m going to throw all my dollars on the table and have nothing left’ strategy.”

A new poll commissioned by Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign shows the race in a statistical tie, a big change from a Democratic poll in July that showed Curbelo with a seven percentage point lead over Mucarsel-Powell.

The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shows Mucarsel-Powell with a one percentage point lead over Curbelo. Mucarsel-Powell’s 49-48 lead came after her campaign began spending money on TV advertising in August.

“I’ve been working on behalf of my community for over 20 years, and families here can trust I’ll be a genuine voice for them in Washington on the most important issues, like healthcare, jobs and the environment,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement.

The internal poll, which used live phone calls to landlines and cell phones in English and Spanish to reach 511 likely voters from Sept. 23-27, was conducted concurrently with Mucarsel-Powell’s ramped up spending. The poll’s margin of error is 4.9 percentage points, meaning that the race is essentially a tie.

Read more here.

October 01, 2018

How Parkland school massacre turned guns into a top 2018 campaign issue in Florida

Congress Gun Violence

@alextdaugherty

Gun rights have motivated portions of the Republican base in Florida for years, but the script has changed in 2018.

The National Rifle Association sued the state of Florida after Gov. Rick Scott and 67 state lawmakers with an “A” rating from the nation’s largest gun group signed a bill that bans anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a firearm. Congress passed a bill that authorizes funding for school safety measures after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, but hasn’t taken up other ideas that would limit access to firearms. Republicans running in competitive congressional races across Florida say they are open to a ban on assault weapons.

Parkland and the March For Our Lives movement started by a group of Broward County high school students have thrust gun politics into the top tier of issues ahead of the 2018 elections, where Democrats are hoping to keep Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat and flip up to a half dozen congressional seats that could determine which party wins the majority in the House of Representatives.

“Even if you go back 10 years, it’s amazing how much this issue has changed,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign. “If you looked at the polling, people supported background checks and banning certain types of weapons, but the entire energy for voting was on the other side. A larger swath of the population is saying that if you’re not reasonable about gun safety, we’re not going to vote for you.”

Though Parkland is in overwhelmingly Democratic Broward County, congressional candidates in nearby Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties have changed their tune on guns in the last year. Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, running for reelection in a Democratic-leaning district, called on Congress to ban devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to function like automatic rifles after the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017. Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast cited his military experience when calling for an assault weapons ban after Parkland. Miami congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar, a Republican, said this week that she supports background checks on guns and is open to an assault-weapons ban.

All three breezed through their respective Republican primaries even though Mast drew two challengers after announcing his stance against assault weapons, and Salazar faced a host of challengers who were more conservative on guns.

“The threat that the NRA has made for years is that if you oppose us, you will lose,” Schale said, adding that zero Republican incumbents who signed the state-level gun bill or called for more gun restrictions after Parkland lost their primaries. “If you look at folks like Brian Mast who came out for an assault weapons ban... it’s hard to imagine in the past that a GOP member of Congress could come out with that position without being completely terrified of the NRA.”

Read more here.

September 27, 2018

Curbelo to vote no on Speaker of the House without lawmaking changes

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo joined a group of 19 House members from both parties who plan to vote against their party's nominee for Speaker of the House unless the nominee agrees to rule changes that would curb some of the power of party leaders and make it easier for bills with bipartisan support to pass the House of Representatives. 

The gambit, first reported by the Washington Post, is by members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of lawmakers who represent the centrist wings of both parties. Democrats who made the pledge would vote no if their party takes a majority in November while Republicans would do the same if they keep control unless the candidate for speaker supports their demands. 

The rule changes that the centrist lawmakers are demanding from either party's leadership include opening up amendments to change bills, making it easier for bills with bipartisan support to get a full vote and limiting the ability of a rogue group lawmakers to oust a sitting speaker, like conservative Freedom Caucus members did to John Boehner in 2015. The lawmakers are banking on either party winning a small majority in the November elections, meaning 9 or 10 votes could make the difference for minority leader Nancy Pelosi, majority leader Kevin McCarthy, or whoever else emerges as the front-runner for the Speaker's job. 

“We’re at a critical point in our country’s politics, and I’m proud to stand with colleagues from both parties to make Congress and its leaders work more effectively for the American people,” Curbelo said. “I truly believe the greatest challenges of our time require bipartisan solutions. We need House rules that encourage cooperation across the aisle and empower Members of the House to seek compromise and adequately represent all their constituents. I look forward to supporting a candidate for Speaker who believes in that vision as well.”

However, many of the lawmakers like Curbelo are facing tough reelection prospects of their own, meaning a portion of the 19 may not be in a position to force change next year. Curbelo faces Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the November election and both are raising millions of dollars to win the most Democratic-leaning seat held by a Republican running for reelection. 

Two Democrats from Central Florida also signed the position, Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Rep. Darren Soto. Murphy faces a competitive reelection challenge while Soto is favored to win reelection after defeating former Rep. Allen Grayson in last month's primary.  

September 19, 2018

Curbelo campaign says Mucarsel-Powell should return Hispanic Caucus money

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@alextdaugherty

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's congressional campaign is calling on Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to return a $5,000 contribution from a political action committee headed by a lawmaker who is accused of molesting a teenager a decade ago. 

Curbelo's campaign said Mucarsel-Powell should return the contribution from BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm, because the PAC is led by California Rep. Tony Cardenas. Cardenas is being sued in California for allegedly drugging and fondling a teenage girl in 2007. He denies the charges and has set up a legal defense fund. The all-Democratic Hispanic Caucus is supporting him and allowing him to continue running the PAC, though House minority leader Nancy Pelosi did order the House Ethics Commission to investigate. 

"Mucarsel-Powell tries to claim she stands with victims of sexual violence, but when Pelosi and the Democratic establishment told her to ignore serious allegations of sexual assault and take Tony Cardenas’s money anyway, that’s exactly what she did. Her continued silence is an insult to all who have been victims of sexual assault," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "Debbie Mucarsel-Powell owes it to victims to return the donation and be transparent about her continuous embrace of political support from Cardenas’ PAC." 

The demand to return money comes months after Curbelo donated contributions from disgraced former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Pat Meehan. Meehan used taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case and referred to the an aide who accused him of harassment as his "soul mate." Curbelo criticized Mucarsel-Powell for taking the PAC money in an interview with Politico Florida on Tuesday. 

Curbelo tried to join the Hispanic Caucus last year but was rebuffed from the group that is currently made up of all Democrats. 

Mucarsel-Powell's campaign referred to an earlier statement when asked about the demand to return the money.

"As a woman and a mother raising her two daughters these accusations are obviously concerning for Debbie and she’s waiting to learn more of the facts as the case develops," Mucarsel-Powell spokesperson Mike Hernandez said in a statement. "Frankly, it’s pathetic that Congressman Curbelo would use this as a political issue as he continues to welcome President Trump, who openly bragged about forcefully groping women and has been accused of sexual assault by no less than 11 women, to campaign with him."

September 18, 2018

New York Times "live poll" shows Mucarsel-Powell closing in on Curbelo

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@alextdaugherty

A new poll suggests Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has a race on his hands. 

The New York Times conducted a "live poll" in Curbelo's district, where readers could see in real-time how many calls were being made and where voters were responding to the poll within the district. After four days of thousands of calls, Curbelo emerged with a three percentage point lead over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a result that is within the poll's five-point margin of error. 

The poll, conducted via phone from September 13 to 17, called 509 voters in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district which he has represented since 2015. Curbelo finished with 47 percent support and Mucarsel-Powell picked up 44 percent of support with nine percent of voters being undecided. 

The poll comes a month after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released polling that showed Mucarsel-Powell trailing Curbelo by a larger margin than a poll conducted months earlier, suggesting that the Democrat who ran for state Senate had work to do to make the race more competitive. 

"This race has tightened considerably. The more voters get to know Debbie, the more the wind is at her back," said Melvin Felix, a spokesperson for the Mucarsel-Powell campaign. “Curbelo voted with his party in Congress to take healthcare away from more than 100,000 people in this district. The more that voters get to know Debbie, the stronger she’ll be in November.”

Curbelo maintains a fundraising advantage over Mucarsel-Powell and outside groups are expected to invest heavily in the race. Most of the election prognosticators rate the race as a toss up or slightly in favor of Curbelo after Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 14 percentage points in the district. 

September 12, 2018

New Republican TV ad blasts Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for husband's Ukrainian connections

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@alextdaugherty

National Republicans are hitting Miami Democratic congressional candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's connections to an Eastern European oligarch dogged by allegations of contract killings and embezzlement. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee, an organization that seeks to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives, is out with a 30-second TV ad titled "Connection" that seeks to tie Mucarsel-Powell to Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch who owned a Miami-based company where Mucarsel-Powell's husband Robert worked as their general counsel. In federal financial disclosures, Mucarsel-Powell reported at least $695,000 in income from a ferroalloys trading corporation associated with Kolomoisky. 

The ad began running in the Miami media market today and an NRCC spokesperson said there is $192,000 behind the ad this week and close to $359,000 behind the ad set for next week. Mucarsel-Powell is running against incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo for the most Democratic-leaning seat represented by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. 

"This is Ihor Kolomoisky a shady Ukrianian militia leader accused of bribery, embezzlement and even murder," the ad's narrator says. "And this is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, candidate for Congress. What's the connection? Mucarsel-Powell's family got rich working for Kolomoisky's businesses and Mucarsel-Powell's campaign has received thousands in contributions from Kolomoisky's associates. Shady money from a shady foreign syndicate, that's Debbie Mucarsel-Powell."   

The term "militia leader" refers to Kolomoisky's private army he paid for to help the Ukrainian government fight against pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine in 2015, though multiple reports say members of his private army stormed into the headquarters of a state-owned oil company after the company's chairman, an ally of Kolomoisky, was fired. At the time Kolomoisky was the governor of a province in Eastern Ukraine. 

Mucarsel-Powell's campaign called the NRCC spot "a complete lie." 

"The facts are clear: Carlos Curbelo voted for Donald Trump's health care plan, he voted 10 times to take away health care access from 100,000 families in our district, and he won't stand up to Donald Trump and the NRA to reduce gun violence in our community," Mucarsel-Powell spokesperson Mike Hernandez said in a statement. "Debbie's plan is based on her values as an immigrant who lost her father to gun violence, and who has spent a career in our community expanding access to health care. As a member of Congress, she'll fight to provide quality, affordable health care to every family and stand up to the NRA to end gun violence in our community."

Curbelo ran his first TV ad of the cycle a few weeks ago and maintains a cash on hand advantage over Mucarsel-Powell in an environment where many Democratic challengers nationwide are outraising Republican incumbents. The race is expected to draw millions in advertising from outside groups. 

Watch the ad below: 

September 04, 2018

A Miami Cuban American has never lost a House seat to a non-Cuban. It could happen in November

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@alextdaugherty

Miami-Dade Democrats, hoping to ride a blue wave in November, have set their sights on winning all five of Miami-Dade County’s congressional seats. It’s a tall order that, if successful, would end the longtime dominance of Cuban-American Republican lawmakers who have exercised outsized power over the nation’s relationship with Latin America.

If a blue wave were to actually hit Miami, the county would be represented in Washington by five women from an unusually diverse background: one African American, one non-Hispanic white, one Jewish, one Ecuadorean American and one Lebanese American. The only Cuban-American Republican left from Miami would be U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

But unseating incumbent Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, and flipping the seat held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, will require convincing tens of thousands of independent voters — and even some Democrats who have voted against their party in congressional races — that the unique perspective brought by the sons and daughters of Cuban exiles is no longer a prerequisite for holding elected office in Congress, where members have influence over the nation’s foreign-policy course.

“The South Florida tradition in Congress established by Ileana, that tradition is going to continue,” said former Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American lawmaker who served in Congress from 1993 to 2011. “When you see these national things about waves and all these predictions, South Florida’s different and we’re going to remain different.”

Since Ros-Lehtinen first won her seat in 1989, no non-Cuban has ousted a Cuban-American Republican from a Miami-Dade congressional seat, even in years like 2006 and 2008, when Democrats made sweeping gains across the country in the latter part of George W. Bush’s administration.

Democrats will need to win in Cuban-American strongholds in all three GOP-held districts, including Little Havana and Westchester in Ros-Lehtinen’s district, parts of Kendall in Curbelo’s district and Hialeah in Diaz-Balart’s district.

Ros-Lehtinen is supporting Cuban-American journalist Maria Elvira Salazar — who handily won her GOP primary Tuesday — as the way to continue the legacy that began 29 years ago.

“Lincoln [Diaz-Balart] and I have had the pleasure of working together as a united team for many years and I’ve missed him in Congress,” Ros-Lehtinen said at Salazar’s victory party on Tuesday night. “And now I hope that Chucky [Curbelo] and Mario [Diaz-Balart] miss me in Congress, but they won’t miss me for very long because Maria Elvira Salazar is going to take over.”

Read more here.

August 30, 2018

Curbelo says DeSantis should apologize

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo thinks GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis should apologize for his “monkey this up” comment made while talking about Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

“That was just a stupid comment to make, one that was offensive to a lot of people,” Curbelo said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. "I know Ron has clarified that it was no way intended to be racist but I think he should apologize.” 

Curbelo said he did not find the comment racist and that he’s never heard DeSantis say anything disparaging about any race during their time in Congress.

Democrats have jumped on DeSantis’ comment, made Wednesday morning on Fox News, arguing that it’s racist.

“He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum. “I watched those debates. None of that is my cup of tea but, he performed better than the other people there so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

Curbelo is running for re-election against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Miami-to-Key West district that both parties are trying to win in November. Mucarsel-Powell called on DeSantis to apologize yesterday.

Watch the video below:

https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/desantis-should-apologize-says-florida-republican-1309681219617?v=raila&cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

August 28, 2018

A sporty Carlos Curbelo goes up on TV

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@alextdaugherty

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's first TV spot is an extended metaphor on his two terms in Congress that also serves to let voters know his first occupation: basketball referee. 

Curbelo shows off his post game and launches some mid-range jumpers as he criticizes Democrats for not getting behind his conservative alternative to the Dream Act and Republicans for not doing enough to help the environment or push for certain gun control measures. 

"My first job was refereeing basketball. I called a fair game," Curbelo says, as he spins a whistle around his finger. "But Washington politicians don’t play fair. And I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. The left blocked my Dreamers solution, I called them out and kept working. The right didn’t do enough for our environment or school safety, so I called that one, too. In Washington, many politicians play for their party, but I play for you."

Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning district in the country held by a Republican running for reelection, is expected to spend millions against likely Democratic opponent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Outside groups on both sides will likely run their own ads ahead of Election Day. 

The 30-second spot doesn't actually show Curbelo hitting any shots, so it's hard to tell how his basketball skills match up with lawmakers like Bernie Sanders (who drained shot after shot via the backboard during the 2016 presidential campaign) or Ted Cruz (who recently bested Jimmy Kimmel in a one-on-one matchup for charity). 

"We didn’t keep a running score, but can say he’s definitely been practicing since the Congressional charity basketball game and I’m predicting more playing time in his future," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said.

Watch the ad below: 

August 15, 2018

Democrats eager for a blue wave admit Carlos Curbelo is beating them

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@alextdaugherty

Carlos Curbelo’s low-lying and Democratic-leaning Miami-to-Key West district is ground zero for a blue wave in November.

But he’s built a sizable sea wall.

With two-and-a-half months until Election Day, polling from Republicans and Democrats shows Curbelo with a lead over his likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a district that Hillary Clinton won by more than 16 percentage points over Donald Trump, and Curbelo isn’t running television ads yet.

A poll released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, shows Curbelo with a seven-percentage-point lead over Mucarsel-Powell among 500 likely voters.

It’s unusual for political organizations to release polling that shows their favored candidate trailing, and the poll shows a larger gap between Mucarsel-Powell and Curbelo than a DCCC poll from April that showed Curbelo with a five percentage point lead.

“All I can figure is that the DCCC released this poll to send a message to their floundering candidate: ‘You’re losing. Get your campaign in order and do something about it,’” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Maddie Anderson said.

At least one Republican poll that hasn’t been released publicly shows Curbelo with a larger lead over Mucarsel-Powell than the DCCC poll.

The DCCC touted their poll, which was conducted a month ago, by arguing that the race became tied after voters heard basic biographical information about Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell. Around the same time the poll was conducted, Mucarsel-Powell switched campaign managers and her husband was found to have financial ties to an Eastern European oligarch dogged by allegations of contract killings and embezzlement.

“In the initial vote, despite major name ID disparity, Mucarsel-Powell earns 41 percent to Congressman Curbelo’s 48 percent. This lead quickly erodes after equal biographic information from both sides,” a DCCC polling memo said. “This exodus from Curbelo is spurred by the introduction of Mucarsel-Powell, who at the time of the poll was largely unknown and had not yet communicated with voters in the 26th district.”

Mucarsel-Powell entered the race a year ago, and her campaign started running television ads to introduce herself last week, after the poll was conducted. But Curbelo hasn’t started running TV ads, and he finished the latest fundraising quarter with more money to spend than Mucarsel-Powell in an environment where 56 Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents across the country, many in districts that are far less friendly to Democrats on paper.

Read more here.