December 04, 2014

Carlos Curbelo campaign explains financial reporting errors to Federal Election Commission

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep.-elect Carlos Curbelo's campaign responded this week to questions from the Federal Election Commission over more than $93,000 in omitted or mislabeled political contributions.

The FEC had sent the Miami Republican a pair notices last month identifying the problems in a two of his financial reports. The issues had first came to light when Curbelo amended one of them a few days before the Nov. 4 election.

In the response Curbelo filed Tuesday, the campaign explained that some contributions questioned by the FEC for being duplicates actually belonged to different individuals with the same name or address. The campaign also listed $52,875 in "corrupted data" initially misreported due to what the campaign called a "software issue" from switching accounting programs near Election Day. Some $42,000 from political organizations was mislabeled as coming from individuals.

Curbelo had laid out most of those changes in the Oct. 28 amendment to his Oct. 15 quarterly financial report, so the total amount of money he raised remains the same as on Oct. 28. That amendment raised eyebrows because so many political action committees had been omitted or mislabeled -- in a race where Rep. Joe Garcia, the incumbent Democrat, had made an issue out of the influx of outside dollars.

According to the Dec. 2 response, Curbelo's campaign corrected the labeling and totals from $51,000 from PACs and other groups, and $21,000 from individuals.

November 24, 2014

FEC asks Carlos Curbelo's campaign to explain finance report errors

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo was elected to U.S. Congress earlier this month, but his campaign work is not over.

The Federal Election Commission has asked the Miami Republican to respond to a series of questions for omitting or mislabeling more than $93,000 in campaign contributions, which Curbelo has blamed on a computer software problem.

The federal agency issued Curbelo’s campaign two notices last week — one of them 11 pages long — that, if not answered adequately, could result in audits or fines.

Nicole Rapanos, Curbelo’s campaign manager, said Monday that the campaign plans to respond as early as this week with a complete accounting of contributions and donors omitted or mislabeled.

“Once we get everything answered, we should be OK,” she said. “We’re not trying to hide anything.”

More here.

November 19, 2014

South Florida Dems to Obama: Venezuelans should be part of executive action on immigration

@PatriciaMazzei

Two South Florida Democratic members of Congress have penned a letter to President Obama asking him to specifically include Venezuelans in his planned executive action on immigration.

U.S. Reps. Joe Garcia of Miami and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, wrote in the letter Tuesday that Obama should provide "administrative relief protections for thousands of Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela and are fearful of returning."

"Political and economic conditions in Venezuela have been declining for years, but now the Venezuelan people are facing a government that would rather repress and demonize its own citizens than engage in dialogue to address the serious problems facing the country," they said.

Any action could apply to Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before December 2011, the cutoff date for the Senate immigration-reform bill yet to be taken up by the House of Representatives, the letter says. Or Obama could authorize "delayed enforced departure," a protection similar to the one granted to people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

"Their inclusion in administrative relief falls in line with the purpose of such action which should be to provide relief from deportation to those who have established lives and families in the U.S. and whose deportations would rip apart communities."

South Florida is home to the largest number of Venezuelans outside of the South American country -- including a large contingent in Wasserman Schultz's hometown, which is known as Westonzuela. Garcia, who lost reelection earlier this month to Republican Carlos Curbelo, has filed legislation to give Venezuelans special immigration status, but it has gone nowhere.

November 18, 2014

Miami TV station interviews Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s transgender son

@SteveRothaus

In 2010, the Miami Herald first reported that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s daughter Amanda was living openly as Rodrigo, a transgender man and LGBT rights activist.

CBS4 News on Monday aired an interview with Ros-Lehtinen; her husband, former acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen; and Rodrigo, now donor services coordinator for GLAAD.

From CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede:

Rodrigo Lehtinen grew up in a household grounded in Republican politics.

His mother, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress and has served in the House for the last 25 years. His father, Dexter Lehtinen, is the former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida who oversaw the indictment of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. His grandfather, Enrique Ros, was an old-time Cuban-American hardliner and author who railed against Castro until his death last year at the age of 89.

“I came from a family where politics was very much talked about openly, calmly with respect on a regular basis,” he said. “So engaging that type of conversation about political issues or things that might be controversial is not foreign in my family.”

Click here to watch the video.

--STEVE ROTHAUS

November 14, 2014

Carlos Curbelo makes NYT in first week in D.C.

via @nytimes

The New York Times followed a few newly elected members of Congress this week during their freshmen orientation -- including Miami Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is apparently hunting for Washington D.C. roommates.

There are housing arrangements to make (“I look forward to talking to other freshmen to see if there is anyone I can room with,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida), friendships to cultivate and new rules to learn, rooted in seniority: In the lottery for office space, freshmen pick last.

The story also notes that Curbelo, who defeated Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, has been a political junkie since his youth at Miami's Belen Jesuit Preparatory School.

Mr. Curbelo’s parents are Cuban exiles. Now 34, he carried around a copy of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” when he was 14. “I hope that doesn’t make me sound too nerdy,” he said.

Read the full story here.

November 05, 2014

FL-26 changes political party hands again

@PatriciaMazzei @cveiga

South Florida’s 26th congressional district lived up to its label as a swing seat Tuesday, changing political party hands for the second time in two years.

Florida lawmakers redrew the boundaries of the state’s southernmost district in 2012 so that it’s almost evenly split among registered Democrats (35 percent), Republicans (33 percent) and independents (32 percent).

Low turnout in Tuesday’s election, particularly among Democrats, benefited Carlos Curbelo, the Republican who ousted Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami. Garcia spent only one term in office, having defeated Republican David Rivera in 2012.

Granted, Garcia was tainted by campaign scandals. So was Rivera. But the back-to-back victories by opposing parties in the district suggest it could remain competitive for years to come.

On Wednesday, Curbelo said he’s not worried that the frequent turnover, depending on the composition of the electorate in a given election, could affect his future chances.

“If I work hard and do a good job for this district, and I represent the community with effectiveness, I think I’ll get another shot at it,” Curbelo said. “It is certainly too early to start thinking about the next election.”

More here.

November 04, 2014

GOP picks up South Florida seat: Carlos Curbelo defeats Miami Rep. Joe Garcia

@PatriciaMazzei @cveiga @dchangmiami

Carlos Curbelo flipped a South Florida congressional seat for the Republican Party on Tuesday, besting Miami Rep. Joe Garcia in a midterm election dominated by the GOP.

Garcia, a freshman Democrat, was undone in part by scandals, much like the Republican he defeated two years ago.

Curbelo, a Miami-Dade County school board member, led from the moment the first election results were posted through the end. He won the 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West, with 52 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 48 percent.

“Tonight begins the work of giving the people of Florida’s 26th congressional district the honest and effective representation we need,” Curbelo said.

More here.

Miami Rep. Joe Garcia talks policy -- and gives driving directions -- to West Kendall voters

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Joe Garcia spent part of Election Day afternoon giving directions to would-be voters who were confused about where to vote.

They showed up at the West Kendall Regional Library, one of the county's largest precincts in the 2012 presidential election. Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade elections department redrew some precincts -- including those at the West Kendall library -- to make them smaller. The department says it notified those voters. 

But many of them either didn't receive a notification or didn't pay attention, because they kept getting turned away Tuesday by poll workers who printed out slips of paper listing their new, nearby polling places.

That left Garcia, the incumbent Democrat facing a strong challenge from Republican Carlos Curbelo, giving voters directions at the library parking lot.

"When you leave here, you cross the street, and it's right there on the left," he said in Spanish to a voter.

"Oh, so it's not by the Taco Bell," said the man. He identified himself to a reporter as Miguel Palacios, a 65-year-old registered Republican who called the situation frustration.

"This is very bad. I've always voted here. I wasn't notified," he said.

Garcia said about two-thirds of the people who walked into the polling place when he was there after 4 p.m. were sent somewhere else. 

"Do me a favor: Go in there and ask if you're in the right place," he told a woman as she walked in.

Garcia, holding a water bottle, hustled from one end of the parking lot to the other, trying to say hello to the voters who steadily trickled in. One woman and her son asked for a photograph with him. Another asked him about his position on immigration reform (he favors it and sponsored a stalled House bill on it). Another, who said he was a federal worker, asked him about across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration (he voted against).

"I voted for him," said 39-year-old Sandra Moore, a registered Democrat, who praised Garcia's visibility in the 26th congressional district. "He's done a lot that he said he would do. And he's active in the community."

Carlos Curbelo greets string of Republican voters in Miami's West Kendall

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo greeted mostly Republican voters Tuesday afternoon at a West Kendall polling place where the sky was blue, the wind was blowing and people were arriving at a slow but consistent clip.

"This morning we have a little rush, but that's it," Curbelo said. 

He was the only candidate at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. A voter also named Carlos said today was his birthday. Curbelo pointed out that Nov. 4 -- Election Day -- is the Feast of St. Charles (San Carlos in Spanish) in the Roman Catholic church.

When the Republican congressional candidate, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, introduced himself to another voter, the voter replied, in Spanish, "I know who you are. I've seen you on TV."

"Pórtate bien," Juan Carlos Esquivel, a 49-year-old Republican, joked before walking into the precinct. "Behave."

After voting, Esquivel said he favored Curbelo because he's someone "defined, who's not switching positions to and fro."

Later, Curbelo stretched out his hand to greet a third voter, who shook it before he realized who Curbelo was.

"Oh, Carlos Curbelo! Take my picture with him," the voter told his companion in Spanish.

"This bodes well," Curbelo said.

The man, 67-year-old Gustavo Cruz, a registered Republican, pledged his family's five votes for Curbelo.

"Forty-nine years ago I was imprisoned in a Cuban concentration camp, and Joe Garcia says, 'Communism works,'" Cruz said in an interview after casting his ballot. "Yes, it works to do harm. That man over there," he added, pointing at Curbelo, "I've never seen do harm."

The voter was referring to a sardonic remark Garcia made earlier this year in which he criticized excessive U.S. government spending on the Mexican border. But Cruz seemed to take the comment literally.

"He's a crook," he said of the congressman.

November 03, 2014

GOP leads Dems by 7K ballots in FL-26

@PatriciaMazzei

We haven't done day-to-day tracking of the early ballots cast by mail and in person in the tight race for Congressional District 26. But Monday's data from Miami-Dade and Monroe counties -- the district extends from Westchester to Key West -- shows Republicans have a lead over Democrats of almost 7,000 pre-Election Day ballots cast.

That's a margin of 7.5 percentage points -- larger than the GOP has going into Election Day in the Florida governor's race, for example. But far fewer people have cast ballots in the congressional race, only about 92,000 out of some 424,000 registered voters.

The question is whether that lead will be enough for Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo to oust Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia. More Democrats than Republicans cast in-person early ballots in the Miami-Dade portion fo the district, and more Democrats tend to vote on Election Day. But this is a midterm election, in which more Republicans typically go to the polls.

Here are the numbers:

PARTY AB %
REP       26,920 48%
DEM       18,050 32%
IND       10,908 20%
TOTAL       55,878  
     
PARTY  EV %
REP       13,463 37%
DEM       15,419 42%
IND        7,754 21%
TOTAL       36,636  
     
PARTY  EVAB  %
REP       40,383 44%
DEM       33,469 36%
IND       18,662 20%
TOTAL       92,514  

--with Marc Caputo

This post has been corrected. An earlier version mislabeled EV and AB votes in the chart.