October 20, 2016

Prominent gay-rights group backs Joe Garcia against Curbelo

NP-JoeGarcia-LBGT-SAVE-102016-006 Joe Garcia DS


A key LBGT organization in South Florida on Thursday endorsed Joe Garcia in his bid to win back from Rep. Carlos Curbelo the House seat that the Miami Republican wrested from him two years ago.

The Miami-based SAVE group, formed in 1993, said it was supporting the Miami Democrat because of his work advocating equality.

"During his term as congressman, Joe served South Florida's LGBTQ community admirably, garnering SAVE's Champion of Equality Award in 2013 for his sponsorship of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and his efforts to protect LBGT immigration rights," SAVE said in a statement.

Long before joining the House in January 2013, the group noted that Garcia had led the Cuban American National Foundation, which he then headed, in opposing the repeal of Miami-Dade's human-rights ordinance.

Once in Congress, Garcia served as vice chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus. He helped pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which extended protects against rape and domestic violence to members of the LBGT community.

"One of my guiding principles is that every person should be treated equally," Garcia said Thursday. "That's why I'm honored that SAVE would recognize my work in support of the LGBTQ community."

SAVE's endorsement of Garcia came six days after Log Cabin Republicans, an influential GOP gay-rights group, endorsed Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo of South Florida in their re-election races, along with five other incumbent lawmakers from across the country.



In new TV ad, Curbelo campaigns against Democrats -- and Trump: 'Forget these politicians'


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday became the latest vulnerable Republican to take on his political party's presidential nominee in a TV ad.

"Forget these politicians," Curbelo says in his new, 30-second commercial. "This election is about you."

Though Curbelo never mentions Donald Trump -- or anyone else -- by name, the images on the screen show Trump and Hillary Clinton expounding on cable news. The Clinton screen then switches to show Curbelo's opponent, Democratic former Rep. Joe Garcia.

"Is this what we're teaching our kids now -- politicians from both parties bragging about offensive, crass behavior?" Curbelo says. 

The Trump side shows an "Access Hollywood" video of Trump bragging about forcing himself on women. The other side shows Garcia -- an allusion to how Garcia was caught on tape questioning Clinton's sex appeal (though Garcia never boasted about his remarks).

"Degrading women," Curbelo says.

Next, the Trump footage turns to Clinton, now appearing in a screen next to Garcia.

"Lies and corruption," Curbelo says, this time alluding to the state and federal criminal investigations that engulfed Garcia's campaigns from 2013-15. Garcia was never charged with any wrongdoing, though his former chief of staff went to jail.

"This election doesn't need to be about them," Curbelo concludes, promising to "fight for you."

Curbelo doesn't support Trump or Clinton but has declined to say which candidate he'll vote for instead. The freshman congressman is embroiled in a difficult contest for Florida's 26th congressional district, which leans Democratic.

The seat is so important to the GOP that House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigned for Curbelo on Wednesday -- refusing to take questions that would inevitably be about Trump.

October 18, 2016

Coming to Curbelo's aid on Spanish-language radio: $400K in ads from GOP gay rights super PAC


Miami's Spanish-language radio airwaves are about to get filled with ads for Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and against Democrat Joe Garcia, courtesy of a GOP gay rights super PAC.

American Unity PAC, which last month unveiled a $150,000 digital ad campaign on Curbelo's behalf, says it has bought $400,000 in Spanish-language radio ads between Wednesday and Election Day to help the endangered Curbelo try to hold on to Democratic-leaning 26th congressional district.

"He's such a bold voice for us, and he's a young member of Congress," Tyler Deaton, senior adviser to American Unity, said about the group's sizable investment in Curbelo. He estimated the super PAC will spend about $750,000 on the race, between the radio ads and an expansion of its digital ads, which focus on equal pay for women and are out in Spanish and English.

American Unity will air a positive, pro-Curbelo ad and a negative, anti-Garcia ad, both of which will also be available online.

"Curbelo is a different kind of Republican," the pro-Curbelo spot says, casting the congressman as a maverick and a champion of immigration reform the environment and equal pay for women. "He opposes the dangerous deal with Iran which rewards a regime that persecutes women, Christians and gay people and threatens to wipe Israel off the map."

Listen to the ad

As for the anti-Garcia spot?

"Joe Garcia is back again," it begins. "We fired Garcia from Congress just two years ago after a sleazy corruption scandal."

Listen to the ad 2

October 16, 2016

Firefighters, educators who backed Garcia in 2014 back Curbelo now


Two groups that endorsed Democrat Joe Garcia in 2014 have to decided this election cycle to instead back his political opponent, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The South Florida Council of Firefighters and the National Education Association both released their picks last week. Endorsements aren't always newsworthy, but they're worth noting when organizations flip -- especially given that they're facing the same choice of candidates. Garcia was the incumbent in 2014 when Curbelo ran against him in Florida's 26th district and ultimately won.

"Mr. Curbelo shares the same values that educators, students, and families of Florida want and expect of those serving them in Washington," NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.

"Congressman Carlos Curbelo has shown the willingness to sit with firefighters and paramedics to understand our concerns," the SFCFF's Omar Blanco said in a statement.

October 15, 2016

Curbelo outraises, outspends Garcia


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has continued to outraise Democratic challenger Joe Garcia, the candidates' latest financial reports show. But what the vulnerable incumbent mostly did over seven weeks was spend money -- a lot of it.

Curbelo went through $1.2 million from Aug. 11-Sept. 30, his campaign reported. Most of that went to TV ads, which he started airing the week of the Aug. 30 primary, without any let up.

Unopposed on the GOP side, Curbelo had saved his amassed contributions for 18 months. He raked in nearly $510,000 in the latest period, including nearly $13,000 from his joint fundraising committee.

Curbelo's big-name donors include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts of Colorado and sugar baron Pepe Fanjul of West Palm Beach. Curbelo also got $2,500 from KochPAC, the political committee for the industrialist Koch brothers, and $3,000 from a political committee for Univision Communications, which has also supported fellow Miami Cuban-American Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this cycle.

Curbelo still has more cash in the bank: $1.3 million, compared to Garcia's about $354,000.

Garcia, who won the Democratic primary despite being outraised and outspent by Annette Taddeo, raised nearly $382,000 through Sept. 30 and spent about $334,000. Among Gn-arcia's donors are political committees for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Garcia also got a $1,000 check from author Judy Blume, who lives in Key West.

Florida's 26th congressional district, which runs from Westchester to Key West, leans Democratic and is one of the most competitive races in the country.

October 14, 2016

Major GOP LBGT group backs South Florida lawmakers



Log Cabin Republicans on Friday endorsed Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo in their re-election races, along with five other incumbent lawmakers from across the country.

The advocacy group, which believes that equality for LBGT people is in the best traditions of the Republican Party, said the seven newly endorsed representatives "have been steadfast allies of LBGT freedom" in the House of Representatives.

"All of these common-sense conservatives have not only spoken out in support of equality, but also cast votes in the 114th Congress that confirm their commitment to the cause," Gregory T. Angelo, head of Log Cabin Republicans, said.

Ros-Lehtinen, running for her 15th term against Miami small business owner Scott Furhman, expressed gratitude for the endorsement.

"I will continue to promote inclusiveness and ensure the fair and equal treatment of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender," she said.

Curbelo is running for his second House term against Joe Garcia, the former congressman he defeated two years ago.

"In Congress, I have been proud to stand up for equality," Curbelo said. "I am honored to have the support of Republicans who understand that equality can never be a partisan issue."

For more information about Log Cabin Republicans, read here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, El Nuevo Herald



October 13, 2016

A toe-to-toe debate between veteran Miami rivals Curbelo and Garcia

@AndresViglucci @PatriciaMazzei

For a few moments Thursday night, the 2016 presidential race played out — in all of its dubious glory — between two congressional candidates on the stage of an all-boys’ Catholic high school in Miami.

The first question Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo got at the debate at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was about Donald Trump. The first question Democratic challenger and former Rep. Joe Garcia got was about Hillary Clinton.

Curbelo reiterated that no, he’s not voting for Trump or Clinton — and wouldn’t divulge who, if anyone, he will pick for president.

“Join us!” said Garcia, who’s backing Clinton.

Garcia apologized, once again, for making a remark secretly caught on tape about how voters might not find Clinton sexually appealing. That’s why Garcia didn’t denounce Trump’s own, recently leaked lecherous comments, Curbelo said: “Silence.”

Florida’s 26th congressional district is so fiercely competitive that it appeared inevitable for the campaign to reflect the national political dynamic. But the debate — the first of threeahead of the Nov. 8 election — also displayed the uniquely tangled politics of the Westchester-to-Key West district.

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Guess who showed up at Garcia-Curbelo debate?


@PatriciaMazzei @AndresViglucci

A surprise guest showed up Thursday at the first debate between Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democratic former Rep. Joe Garcia: Garcia's former chief of staff, who was fired and went to jail when the ex-congressman was in office.

Jeffrey Garcia sat in the auditorium of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, after having disappeared from local politics following his jail term.

His presence did not go unnoticed.

As soon as Curbelo and Joe Garcia, no relation, sparred over the criminal cases that resulted in two convictions for Jeffrey Garcia, Curbelo pointed to the audience.

"He's actually sitting right there," Curbelo said.

"You never spoke to him again," Curbelo continued, before invoking the school's motto. "Whatever happened to 'men for others'?"

Mentioning Jeffrey Garcia made it seem like he might have been invited by Curbelo, so he could make a point against his opponent. A Curbelo spokeswoman denied having given him a ticket and suggested he'd gotten it from Garcia. But a Garcia spokesman also denied any involvement.

Jeffrey Garcia, as a Belen alumnus like both candidates, said that's how he'd gotten in.

"I don't need an invitation to come to Belen," he told the Miami Herald.

This post has been updated with Jeffrey Garcia's comment.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

October 12, 2016

Foreign-visa program provided Garcia a cause in Congress — and a job out of it

002 Joe Garcia DS

As a member of Congress, Joe Garcia championed immigration visas that allow wealthy foreigners to obtain U.S. residency if they pledge at least $500,000 to job-creating projects within the nation’s borders.

According to one analysis, Garcia became the biggest beneficiary in Congress of donations from bankers and developers eager to expand the visa program, known as EB-5.

When the Miami Democrat was ousted from Congress after a single term, Garcia took a job as senior vice president for a private Miami Beach bank named QueensFort Capital that specializes in matching foreign investors to EB-5 visa projects.

Though not illegal or improper, the relationship illustrates the revolving door that often exists in Congress: As a lawmaker, Garcia worked on EB-5 legislation. He then worked for an EB-5 bank. Now he’s again running for Congress, where he might write EB-5 rules that would affect his former employer.

Garcia told the Miami Herald he got the bank job because he could leverage his local connections and not because he filed legislation in March 2014 to expand the EB-5 program.

“This was a job because I knew a lot of people in South Florida,” said Garcia, whose legislation didn’t pass. “The whole point was because of my relations. It was not because of my EB-5 expertise.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Democratic super PAC debuts anti-Curbelo ad


Joe Garcia got a little help on TV this week from a Democratic super PAC that started airing its first ad against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"Carlos Curbelo shares Donald Trump's dangerous views," the ad from House Majority PAC says. "They both want to defund Planned Parenthood. They both called Social Security a 'Ponzi' scheme."

The ad also claims a super PAC funded by Trump has spent "over $1 million" trying to reelect Curbelo, but it doesn't name the PAC. Asked to identify it, House Majority PAC spokesman Jeb Fain said it was the Congressional Leadership Fund, which accepted a Trump donation in 2012, long before his candidacy.

"The contortions Democrats are making in this ad only showcase how desperate they are to talk about anything but Joe Garcia'a scandal-plagued record," Emily Davis, Congressional Leadership Fund'/ communications director, said in a statement.

National Democrats have made it their chief campaign argument to tie congressional Republicans to Trump. Curbelo has escaped some of that criticism by saying he won't back the presidential nominee. But Democrats are nevertheless finding issues on which they can link the two Republicans.