June 27, 2017

House GOP-backed PAC pledges anti-Pelosi campaign in Curbelo's Miami district

Congress Democrats

Get ready, voters in Florida's 26th congressional district: A rash of anti-Nancy Pelosi advertising is coming in the 2018 election.

Congressional Leadership Fund, a political committee backed by the House Republican caucus, pledged Tuesday to devote serious cash next year to running against Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

The group says it's polled 11 competitive congressional districts -- including FL-26 -- over the past 60 days and found Pelosi is disliked. Her leadership came under political fire last week after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia. A defiant Pelosi, a Democratic fundraising machine, made clear she's sticking around.

According to Congressional Leadership Fund, 45 percent of poll respondents in FL-26, which is represented by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, view her unfavorably, compared to 37 percent who view her favorably.

"During the 2018 cycle, CLF will spend millions of dollars highlighting Nancy Pelosi's toxic agenda and reminding voters across the country that Democratic candidates are nothing more than rubber stamps for her out-of-touch, liberal policies," Congressional Leadership Fund Executive Director Corry Bliss wrote.

Curbelo, who has yet to draw a Democratic challenger, has been repeatedly jabbed recently by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for his support for the House healthcare bill. Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also backed it.

"Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart already made their bed and now they have to lie in it," DCCC Spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement Monday.

We talk more about Pelosi in our weekly McClatchy politics podcast, "Beyond the Bubble":

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

June 22, 2017

What Jon Ossoff’s loss means for Democrats trying to win swing seats in Miami

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Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old centrist Democrat who didn’t live in the Atlanta-area district he was seeking to represent in Congress and whose resume includes stints as a Capitol Hill staffer and documentary film producer, just ran the most expensive campaign ever for a House seat.

He lost.

Now, the focus turns to the 2018 election for Democrats where their best chance at breaking up a Republican-controlled government runs through the House.

“We as Democrats have to come to terms with the fact that we lost again,” said Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat gaining buzz for a potential presidential run in 2020. “We’re the party that stands up for working families, the middle class and yet many of them are not voting for us.”

Democrats must flip 24 seats to control the House, and two Miami-Dade seats currently occupied by Republicans are considered near must-wins: the open seat occupied by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Miami-to-Key West seat occupied by Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

“I applaud the enthusiasm behind Ossoff’s candidacy, but how many Democrats could we have gotten elected for $30 million?” said Scott Fuhrman, a Miami Democrat who lost to Ros-Lehtinen by 10 percentage points in 2016 even though national Democrats chose not to spend in the race. Fuhrman was planning to run against Ros-Lehtinen again before she announced her retirement and a slew of Democrats jumped in the race. He dropped out in early June.

Local Democrats are quick to warn outsiders like Daily Kos Elections, a liberal blog that kick-started the cash flow to Ossoff, that using messages that resonate with the Democratic base nationally may not be the best idea in Miami, where foreign policy issues in Latin America are of large importance to Democrats, independents and Republicans alike.

“In Miami generally it is very difficult to tie national winds to what goes on in Miami-Dade County because we’re such a unique little island of diversity,” said Ben Pollara, a Democratic consultant who worked on Fuhrman’s campaign and will work in the election to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

Fuhrman put part of the blame on minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chair of the Democrats’ fundraising organization.

“Moral victories in politics are BS and at the end of the day Democrats needed a win last night and they didn’t get it and people should be held accountable,” Fuhrman said. “For whatever reason people tend to fail up in our organization.”

The nearly $50 million invested into Ossoff’s campaign, along with months of attention from national Democrats and constant media coverage, didn’t pan out.

Read more here. 

June 21, 2017

After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts

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Two Republican-held congressional districts in South Florida remain among the most attractive for Democrats to flip next year, according to an internal Democratic memo circulated after the party lost a closely watched and incredibly expensive special Georgia election Tuesday night.

Recent Democratic polls in Florida's 26th and 27th districts show Democrats doing better than they were when they surveyed voters in the same districts last October, wrote Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Luján's memo tried to keep Democrats motivated after Jon Ossoff's loss to Republican Karen Handel in the Atlanta suburbs -- a race that cost both sides about $55 million, the most expensive in history. In the memo, Luján listed 30 competitive districts Democrats plan to target to try to win back the House in 2018. They would need to flip 24 GOP-controlled districts to do so.

"The House is in play," Luján wrote for the first time. 

Among them are FL-26 and FL-27, now held by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. When Democrats polled Ros-Lehtinen's district in October, a generic Democratic candidate outperformed a generic Republican by 7 percentage points. The beloved Ros-Lehtinen, however, is sui generis: She defeated challenger Scott Fuhrman by nearly 10 points.

But Ros-Lehtinen is retiring, and Democrats' more recent polling shows a generic Democrat leading a generic Republican by 18 points.

Similarly, Democrats say they've gained ground in the district held by Curbelo, who is running for reelection. A generic Democrat polled evenly with a generic Republican in his district in October; now, Democrats say they're up by 7 points.

Still, a generic ballot is not the same as testing specific candidates. Curbelo is a sophomore much less entrenched than Ros-Lehtinen, but he appears pretty well-liked in his Westchester-to-Key West district. There's perhaps no bigger sign that he's a tough opponent than the fact that he's yet to draw a big-name Democratic challenger ahead of 2018.

If Democrats continue the strategy they tried in Georgia, they will likely keep trying to run in congressional districts against President Donald Trump. In his memo, Luján included a chart noting Trump's job performance is under water in both Ros-Lehtinen's and Curbelo's district. Some 61 percent of respondents have a negative view of Trump's work so far in Ros-Lehtinen's district, according to the DCCC. That number is 52 percent in Curbelo's district.

Luján, who was in South Florida last month, wrote the DCCC will try to recruit candidates across the country in July.

"Let’s look outside of the traditional mold to keep recruiting local leaders, veterans, business owners, women, job-creators, and health professionals," he wrote. "Let’s take the time to find people who fit their districts, have compelling stories, and work hard to earn support from voters."

Read Luján's memo below.

Continue reading "After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts" »

June 19, 2017

House to vote on Carlos Curbelo's wage subsidy bill for welfare recipients on Friday



The House of Representatives will vote on Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act on Friday, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy announced on Monday. 

Curbelo's bill, introduced on June 8th, creates grants for demonstration projects that provide wage subsidies to welfare recipients with the goal of helping them get and keep jobs. The bill passed out of the Ways and Means Committee last week with bipartisan support. 

"Mr. Chairman, H.R. 2842, the Accelerating Individuals Into the Workforce Act, incentivizes employer partnerships with state and local agencies to hire recipients from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program," Curbelo said to the committee last week. "This bill uses $100 million from the TANF Contingency Fund to create grants so states can conduct demonstration projects intended to assist low-income individuals in entering the workforce and maintaining employment."

States will also be required to report their progress and must ensure that the subsidies do not displace current workers. 

"Poverty is an issue that affects each our districts," Curbelo said. "We need innovative solutions that can help get people on track to a brighter future.  This legislation is definitely a step in the right direction." 

Curbelo, who was among the most active House freshman in bills introduced and cosponsored last Congress, has introduced 11 bills so far this year. 



June 13, 2017

Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren agree on one issue—federal flood insurance must change

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Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren rarely see eye-to-eye on major policy issues but both agree the National Flood Insurance Program must be fixed. 

The program, run by FEMA, must be reauthorized by September 30 as part of the 2018 budget. Rubio and Warren, along with Sens. Bob Menendez, John Kennedy, Chris Van Hollen and Thad Cochran penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday outlining their plan to make federal flood insurance fiscally sound. 

"Powerful floods devastate communities across America every year," the op-ed reads. "After these catastrophic natural disasters, too many Americans find themselves facing a man-made calamity: a National Flood Insurance Program that overcharges and underdelivers for policyholders and for taxpayers. As members of the Senate Banking and Appropriations committees, which oversee flood insurance and provide federal disaster response, we plan to offer bipartisan landmark legislation to tackle systemic problems with flood insurance and to reframe our entire disaster paradigm." 

The proposal comes as the federal flood insurance program is billions of dollars in debt and still dealing with the financial impacts of major hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, where homeowners said federal engineers were encouraged to lie about storm damage to limit federal insurance payouts.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo also introduced legislation relating to flood insurance earlier this year. His bill would allow non-primary residences and businesses to be eligible for the same flood insurance rates as primary residences.

“This bill is critical to South Florida, especially for residents of the Florida Keys that are in desperate need of affordable housing options," Curbelo said in a statement. "The Flood Insurance Fairness Act would ensure all Americans have access to affordable flood insurance by guaranteeing that all non-primary residences and business properties receive the same rates provided to primary homes under the National Flood Insurance Program.” 

Read the rest of the op-ed here.


June 08, 2017

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell weighing bid for Carlos Curbelo's seat



U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo could soon get a Democratic challenger. 

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016, was in Washington on Thursday to meet with party leaders and members of Congress. 

Mucarsel-Powell confirmed in an interview with the Miami Herald that she is taking a hard look at Curbelo's seat in 2018. 

"I met with various members of Congress who are extremely concerned about the direction our country is in, they are encouraging me to take a serious look at it," Mucarsel-Powell said. "One of the reasons I'm considering it is that I'm fully committed to the people in the district. The horrible healthcare vote that Curbelo took a few weeks ago shows that they don't have a member in Congress. He doesn't represent the district." 

Mucarsel-Powell met with Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel along with Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell and Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark. She also took meetings with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the group tasked with getting Democrats elected to the House nationwide, and EMILY's List, a group that aims to elect female politicians. 

"I’m leaving extremely impressed with the members I met," Mucarsel-Powell said. "It gives me hope we can stop Trump's agenda."

Curbelo, a second-term Republican, has yet to draw a Democratic opponent despite a district that has voted for Democrats at the presidential level. A host of Miami-area Democrats are weighing a bid for Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat after she announced her plans to retire.

"I know we're going to be okay in that district," Mucarsel-Powell said, adding that her main priorities are education and healthcare. 

Mucarsel-Powell wants to consult with her family and friends before making a definitive decision, she said and acknowledged that a run against Curbelo, who ranks among the GOP's top fundraisers, will be challenging. Mucarsel-Powell captured 45.8 percent of the vote against the well-funded Flores, a moderate Republican, in 2016.

"The Democratic Party and EMILY’s List have to make sure that someone’s viable, candidates have to raise a significant amount of money first," she said. 

Curbelo's district extends from Central Miami-Dade County down to Key West. 



June 06, 2017

Because it's the Florida Keys: Activists send Curbelo message with coconuts

From Miami Herald news partner WLRN public radio:

They called themselves the "coconut caravan." 

The Upper Keys Action Network, or UKAN was formed after the 2016 election as a way for people in the Keys to stay politically engaged. This week, 10 women from UKAN drove an estimated 300 coconuts to Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Miami office.

The women and many others had painted the coconuts with messages like "Save ACA [the Affordable Care Act]," "country over party," and "Climate change is real." 

It's all to call on the congressman, whose district includes the Keys,  to hold an in-person town hall in the Keys.

"The overall message is ‘Hey, come to the Keys. Come meet with us. Come hear what your constituents have to say,'” says Lindsey Crews, an organizer with UKAN who helped coordinate the coconut project. She says this isn't the first time coconuts have been used to send a political message.

Curbelo is in Washington DC, so he wasn't there to receive the coconuts in person.

"Carlos meets with constituents in-person in both Miami and the Keys during district work periods... and he held a tele-townhall for constituents in May," said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo. She said that tele-townhall reached thousands, but the women of UKAN say they'd like to have the opportunity to ask questions face-to-face.

Listen to the radio story here.

Photo credit: Holly Pretsky, WLRN

June 02, 2017

In ads, Koch-backed group asks Curbelo to oppose border adjustment tax

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The political group created by the industrialist Koch brothers wants Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo to come out against the border adjustment tax, House Republicans' plan to impose a 20 percent tax on imports into the country.

The Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity is launching a six-figure digital ad campaign urging Curbelo to "support AFP's plan to un-rig the economy." Curbelo sits on the Ways and Means Committee that will rewrite tax policy. He hasn't publicly supported or opposed the tax so far.

"We hope Congressman Curbelo uses his leadership role in passing pro-growth tax reform based on AFP's 5 Principles of simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and no new burden on taxpayers," AFP state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "That starts with opposing a border adjustment tax – a trillion-dollar tax on consumers masquerading as a tax on imports."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald


May 26, 2017

In South Florida, Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will take on Carlos Curbelo in 2018

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One of Democrats’ biggest goals for the 2018 election is to defeat Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday during a South Florida visit.

What she didn’t explain was why her party has yet to find someone to run against him.

“We will be having a strong focus on Florida in the next election and certainly the Curbelo race will be one of them,” Pelosi pledged Friday in Wilton Manors.

Several Democrats intend to run for the Democratic-leaning 27th congressional district being vacated by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring. But none have challenged Curbelo, a sophomore lawmaker whose 26th district also leans blue.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials have met with potential Curbelo challengers including while in South Florida this week for fundraisers that Pelosi attended. (Pelosi told the Herald that she herself hadn’t met with any potential candidates.)

“We are actively meeting with and hearing from candidates who are interested in stepping up because of unprecedented attacks on health care, immigration and our core values in Washington,” DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said.

Pelosi said that President Donald Trump’s low favorability ratings have given Democrats confidence in their mission to win back the House and put more Democrats in office in other seats nationwide. She also said that U.S. Bill Nelson’s re-election is “very important.”

Keep reading here.

Miami Herald photo by Emily Michot

May 23, 2017

Here's ad from Ryan-backed group 'thanking' Curbelo for healthcare vote


The promised TV ad from a political nonprofit backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to praise Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo and other vulnerable Republicans who voted for the American Health Care Act is here.

American Action Network pledged to politically back House lawmakers who supported the Obamacare replacement legislation, a priority for Ryan and President Donald Trump. Curbelo and 20 other Republicans who voted "yes" could face challenging reelection races in their swing districts next year. Curbelo has yet to draw an opponent.

The ad features a California woman who lost her doctor under the Affordable Care Act. It will be tailored to each of the representatives' districts. The only other Florida Republican also getting the help is Rep. Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island.

The bill still hasn't moved in the Senate.

 This post's headline has been changed to avoid confusion with Ryan's political arm, "Team Ryan."