May 18, 2016

Rival polls show Joe Garcia leading Democratic primary for swing Miami congressional seat

IMG_joe_garcia_by_koltun_2_1_SI345UAN_L78561106

@PatriciaMazzei

The Democratic race for Florida’s most competitive congressional district looks like former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s to lose.

Garcia holds a 25-point lead over rival Annette Taddeo, according to a new internal poll by Garcia’s campaign. That’s 15 percentage points higher than it was in January, when Garcia’s team surveyed the match-up before he launched his candidacy for the 26th congressional district.

“This poll reflects the strong support this community has for Joe Garcia,” campaign spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement released with a two-page summary of the latest results. “The people of this district know that when they choose Joe Garcia, their voices will be heard in Washington.”

Garcia bests Taddeo by 53-28 percent, with 19 percent of likely Democratic primary voters undecided , according to the poll conducted by the campaign’s pollster, Pete Brodnitz of Expedition Strategies. The January poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, an outside firm, pegged Garcia’s lead at 34-24 percent, with 42 percent undecided.

The new lead jibes with an internal poll by Taddeo’s campaign shared in its entirety with the Miami Herald. That survey had Garcia ahead 48-27 percent — by 21 points — with 25 percent undecided.

But Taddeo’s poll also showed her doing far better than Garcia once voters learned about Taddeo’s personal background as the Colombian immigrant daughter of a Colombian mother and an American father, and about her positions on issues important to progressives.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

May 17, 2016

Joe Garcia to return contributions from donor who pleaded guilty to domestic assault

@PatriciaMazzei

It started with a Washington report that U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat running for U.S. Senate, had accepted $16,400 in contributions from donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a friend who in 2014 pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge.

The report from The Hill prompted Murphy to return the campaign cash by making equivalent contributions to charity. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also gave back $100,000 Al-Rashid had contributed to the Senate Majority PAC.

Republicans are now highlighting that other Florida Democrats benefited from Al-Rashid's political largesse -- including former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami, who is running for his old seat. Garcia accepted $5,200 from Al-Rashid in 2014, and $5,400 in March.

Garcia's campaign said Tuesday, as first reported by Politico, that it is making an equivalent donation to Planned Parenthood to get rid of the 2016 money.

This post has been updated to correct the fact that it's the campaign will be giving the 2016 money to charity, not the 2014 money.

May 15, 2016

Carlos Curbelo cut David Rivera a check in 2012 but says he didn't end up voting for him

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo admitted to a Miami radio station recently that he didn't vote in the 2012 congressional election between then-incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera and Democratic challenger Joe Garcia.

“When it became apparent that both those campaigns had been involved in unethical and illegal activities — because people went to jail from both campaigns — I did not vote in that election,” he told WIOD, as we reported in our story about Curbelo's political future.

Rivera is now running for the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who won the 2012 election and then lost to Curbelo in 2014, is running in the Democratic primary to try to oust Curbelo in November.

Curbelo may not have voted for Rivera, his fellow Republican, in 2012. But he did give him a financial contribution: $1,000 on June 29 of that year, campaign records show. The donation came before the Miami Herald revealed suspicious ties between Rivera and a ringer Democratic candidate.

But even before then, Rivera had found himself on shaky legal and ethical ground. Earlier Herald reporting led to a 2010 state investigation into Rivera's questionable use of campaign finances. Those investigations ended without charges in April 2012, a few months before Curbelo wrote his check. (A pair of separate investigations by the FBI and IRS appeared to be ongoing at the time but never went anywhere.)

So why back Rivera despite his prior troubles -- but then not vote for him?

"Once it became clear that the campaign had recruited and illegally financed a straw candidate, I no longer felt comfortable being supportive," Curbelo told the Herald in an email Saturday. "At first I figured it would be better to support him against Joe Garcia who had always shown a penchant for dishonesty, nastiness, and manipulation. Later we discovered that in fact Garcia pioneered the concept of attempting to rig elections by using straw candidates. It's all disgusting."

April 15, 2016

UPDATED Miami congressional candidates say Carnival shouldn't cooperate with Cuban 'discrimination'

@PatriciaMazzei

Democrat Annette Taddeo weighed in earlier this week on the controversy that has gripped Miami politics: whether Carnival Corp. should sail to Cuba as planned, given that the Castro regime won't allow Cuban-born passengers to disembark the ship.

No, said Taddeo, who is running in Florida's 26th congressional district.

Here's the statement her campaign released Wednesday:

While I am supportive of the steps President Obama has taken to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, I recognize that there will be many issues to address and we cannot ignore our American values as we work through these issues. The current Cuban policy prohibiting Cuban-born Americans from entering the country by sea has now created a policy of discrimination on cruise lines traveling to Cuba. We should not allow the Cuban Government to decide which Americans get on a U.S. cruise ship.

This is not the first time a cruise line has been forced to deal with a country's bias towards an entire ethnic group. When Tunisia refused to allow Jewish passengers to disembark in their country, Norwegian Cruise Lines cut ties and stopped travel to Tunisia. I am hopeful the Cuban government will see the error in this policy and move quickly to remedy the discrimination it creates towards Cuban Americans. In the meantime, I encourage Carnival to follow the example set by Norwegian and refuse to cooperate with a policy that singles out and discriminates against one group of Americans. I agree with President Obama's focus on people-to-people engagement and Cuban Americans are people, too.

On Thursday, Taddeo wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to push Cuba to "see the error in this policy."

Taddeo is Colombian-American, not Cuban-American, But she has spent years living among Miami's Cuban exiles, and her primary opponent, former Rep. Joe Garcia, is a chief proponent of Obama's U.S.-Cuba engagement policy. The Republican incumbent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, generally opposes it. (Both Garcia and Curbelo are sons of exiles.)

Curbelo tweeted in support of the Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago exposing the Cuban policy. He's against Carnival sailing under the existing Cuban policy.

UPDATE: Garcia tells the Herald he, too, thinks Carnival should not sail under existing Cuban policy:

"Discrimination is discrimination, and we should never tolerate governments who discriminate under the guise of policy for anyone, not for sexual orientation, race, creed, or national origin," Garcia said in a statement. "I support engaging Cuba, but our policy is simple. We are America. We should not enable discrimination here at home or in any corner of the globe."

Read Taddeo's letter to Lew:

Letter

In new bid for old seat, ex-Rep. Joe Garcia says he raked in $325K

@PatriciaMazzei

In his first six weeks as a candidate for his old congressional seat, former Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami said he raised $325,000 -- more than his Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, has collected in any three-month period since she began running a year ago.

Both are hoping for a shot to unseat freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West.

"I announced my candidacy in February, because I couldn't sit by and watch Republicans like Carlos Curbelo dismantle access to healthcare and family planning for women, treat our immigrant community like second-class citizens and strike down environmental protections that keep our water clean and our natural treasures safe," Garcia said in a statement. "Today's numbers show the people of South Florida know I won't let them down."

Campaign-finance reports showing fundraising from Jan. 1 through March 31 are due by midnight to the Federal Election Commission. Garcia's campaign said he's got $315,000 cash on hand, after expenses.

Neither Curbelo nor Taddeo have announced their totals yet, though Curbelo, who has far more money in the bank, is expected to still lead the cash-on-hand race.

Taddeo's last report showed about $275,000 in fundraising, while Curbelo's showed about $450,000. Taddeo's strongest quarter was the one that ended last October; in that period, she collected more than $300,000, but that included a $75,000 loan to herself. That was Curbelo's slowest Curbelo; he brought in about $256,000.

March 09, 2016

UPDATED Miami congressman snubbed from White House meeting on Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo wanted in on the White House's upcoming Miami meeting with Cuban-American community leaders. 

No such luck.

Curbelo says he asked to attend Friday's get-together with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. But he was told the meeting will be "private."

"This White House works very hard at excluding Cuban-American representatives -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- from any meetings or discussions having to do with U.S.-Cuba policy," Curbelo said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I've worked with the Administration on higher education reform, climate change, immigration, and other issues. However, on Cuba they shut out anyone who doesn't fully agree with them -- even those who represent our country's Cuban-American community. It doesn't make sense, and quite frankly, it seems petty."

Pete Boogaard, assistant press secretary for the National Security Council, said Rhodes and other senior administration officials have met "directly with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle."

"We will continue to make outreach to Congress a focus of our engagement, but during the limited time Mr. Rhodes has in Miami, he will meet with human rights and civil society advocates, faith leaders, young emerging leaders, and representatives from the private sector."

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, the Democrat who lost to Curbelo in 2014 and hopes to challenge him again later this year, issued a campaign statement deriding Curbelo's complaint as "priceless."

"The person who has opposed every single one of this administration's initiatives on Cuba -- from family travel to remittances to normalization of migratory policy -- now wants a photo op. The Obama administration has been in contact with Cubans both on the island and in Miami, as well as with leaders of the civic, business, art and political communities. If there is someone who is out of touch with the people in Cuba and, in particular, South Florida, it is Mr. Curbelo."

Curbelo was snubbed by the White House last year: It denied him an Air Force One seat to a President Barack Obama town hall on immigration at Florida International University, in Curbelo's congressional district. The White House later made nice with Curbelo, and he got to fly with the president a few months later on a trip to the Florida Everglades.

Miami Dade College announced Wednesday that, as part of his visit, Rhodes will attend a town meeting with young Cuban Americans at downtown Miami's Wolfson Campus. The event is co-sponsored by Roots of Hope, a nonprofit network of Cuban-American college students and professionals. Rhodes will hold a news conference afterward.

UPDATE: Rhodes telephoned Curbelo on Wednesday night, according to the congressman. They spoke for about half an hour and had a "very productive conversation."

This post has been updated.

February 17, 2016

Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

News of President Barack Obama's impending trip to Cuba -- in March, sources told the Miami Herald -- prompted quick backlash from Miami politicians, many of them of Cuban descent.

Here's reaction, which we will update as it comes in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president

 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for president

 

Continue reading "Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba" »

Joe Garcia's internal poll shows him leading Annette Taddeo

An internal poll done by Joe Garcia's Congressional campaign shows him leading Democratic rival Annette Taddeo 34-24.

The poll was done by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm Jan. 15-18 of 441 Democratic voters in the district which spans parts of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

"The poll is a reflection of the support Joe has received since entering the race," said Juan Penalosa, an advisor for the Garcia campaign. "Joe is leading by large margins across the board, including a 15 point lead among women."  

Taddeo's campaign manager Shaun Daniels said: "Whether on election day in 2014 or in his own polling, Joe Garcia just can’t seem to get to 50%. This poll is great news for the Taddeo Campaign. It is not surprising that a former incumbent holds a slight lead.”

We'll note that internal polls come with a large grain of salt -- particularly when they are done about seven months before the primary. But due to redistricting, District 26 leans more left than in the past and this could be the hottest Congressional primary contest in South Florida.

This poll previously reported by Politico.

February 03, 2016

Annette Taddeo weighs in on Joe Garcia running against her for Congress

@PatriciaMazzei

Here's what Annette Taddeo had to say about former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia jumping into the Democratic primary for his old congressional seat -- where Taddeo is already running.

Our South Florida families, workers and small business owners deserve a voice in Washington who will always speak for them.  I began this race for Congress nearly a year ago because as a mother and small business owner, I understand the needs of our communities and I want to be their voice and fight for them every single day.

As a member of Congress I will fight to raise the minimum wage, bring jobs back to our communities, ensure equal pay for women and to strengthen our schools. This is what our communities deserve, but sadly the 26th District has instead endured a series of politicians who've put self-interest first, acted unethically, and at times even acted illegally.  

It’s time to turn a new page in South Florida.  The communities of South Florida want an advocate whose only interest is helping our diverse neighborhoods and families thrive. We deserve a leader who will build on Obamacare, not repeal it.  Defend Planned Parenthood, not defund it.  Reject the anti-immigrant Party of Trump, not champion it.  We deserve a candidate who will bring South Florida’s values to Washington, not become part of the problem. That’s why I’m running and it’s why I’ve been so proud to receive the endorsements of individuals, businesses, unions and elected leaders across the 26th District.

Joe Garcia wants his old Miami seat in Congress back

@PatriciaMazzei

He’s made up his mind: Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia will run for Congress again this year, the Miami Democrat announced Wednesday. He will seek his old seat, which has been redrawn to now include more Democrats.

“We did great things when we were in Congress and I want to continue work on the issues that matter to South Florida, because we deserve better,” Garcia said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “We deserve quality jobs that pay a living wage, lower college tuition, action on climate change, and comprehensive immigration reform.”

Garcia lost his swing Westchester-to-Key West seat in an off-year election when fewer Democrats go to the polls. Running in a presidential year — and in a redrawn district that comfortably favored President Barack Obama in 2012 — Garcia hopes to have better luck, assuming he wins the primary.

Another Democrat, Annette Taddeo, who was Charlie Crist’s running mate in the 2014 Florida governor’s race, is already in the race.

More here.