October 23, 2016

Carlos Curbelo, Joe Garcia and the fight for women voters

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@NewsbySmiley @PatriciaMazzei

For months, Joe Garcia and national Democrats have relentlessly cast Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo as a Donald Trump Republican — or worse — arguing that votes the freshman Curbelo has taken with the House GOP caucus make his actions more serious than Trump’s words.

In a debate televised Sunday, Curbelo tried to turn the tables — and compared Garcia to Trump.

“I respect women, and you don’t,” Curbelo shot at Garcia, pointing a finger at him during WPLG-ABC 10’s “This Week in South Florida.”

At issue was a secretly recorded tape last month that caught Garcia characterizing Hillary Clinton as sexually unappealing — which host Michael Putney played on air. That tape came out nearly a month before The Washington Post released a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording showing Trump bragging about forcing himself on women.

“I said something stupid,” Garcia conceded. But, he added about Curbelo: “Everything he just said is completely false.”

More here.

October 21, 2016

Two debates remain between Garcia, Curbelo, after last-minute addition

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@PatriciaMazzei

Voters in Florida's swing 26th congressional district will have two more chance to watch Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo debate Democratic challenger Joe Garcia on TV -- one in English and one in Spanish.

An English-language debate on WPLG-ABC 10 that was taped Friday will air Sunday. A Spanish-language debate on WJAN-América TeVé will take place Nov. 1, a week before Election Day, when thousands of ballots will have already been cast.

The two campaigns have been unable to agree to any other exchanges, despite a flurry of invitations from local stations.

Garcia has said no -- or not responded -- to invitations from WSCV-Telemundo 51 and WLTV-Univision 23, both of which Curbelo accepted. Curbelo chose a one-on-one interview -- rather than a debate -- on WPBS and did not confirm a date with WSBS-Mega TV. Garcia said yes to both.

The League of Women Voters invited both candidates to a debate. Garcia said yes and was told it would air locally on C-SPAN and WLRN radio. Curbelo said no but wasn't told the debate would be televised, according to his campaign. The League of Women Voters did not respond to requests from the Miami Herald.

Almost all of the invitations were also in Spanish. Garcia and Curbelo have faced off once in English, at their alma mater, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, but that debate wasn't televised -- despite being moderated by national ABC News reporter Tom Llamas, a fellow Belen alumnus. The two candidates also appeared in a Key West forum Monday that was live-streamed online.

Both campaigns have pointed fingers about the lack of debate consensus, with Joanna Rodriguez, a Curbelo spokeswoman, called Garcia "desperate to hide" from Spanish-speaking voters after Garcia turned down Univision and Telemundo, the most-watched Spanish-language stations.

"One Spanish debate on a cable channel is a disservice to the voters of this district who deserve a quality debate between the candidates," she said.

"I'm sure both Carlos' camp and ours agree that it's impossible to accept every invite," Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said. The Garcia camp called out Curbelo on Thursday for not attending a Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations forum that he turned down after trying to find a different date. Curbelo had already accepted an invite to meet with the local Disabled American Veterans chapter.

Curbelo might benefit most from more TV time, despite having more campaign money and political ads already on air. He was already vulnerable in the Democratic-leaning district before Donald Trump. Republicans fear Trump's candidacy could hurt down-ballot candidates, particularly for the U.S. House. For Garcia, it might be enough to ride Hillary Clinton's electoral coattails.

Both Garcia and Curbelo are Cuban American -- and bilingual.

This post and its headline have been updated with news that Curbelo and Garcia taped the WPLG-ABC 10 debate.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

October 20, 2016

Prominent gay-rights group backs Joe Garcia against Curbelo

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@jamesmartinrose

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'

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

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@jamesmartinrose

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

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@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?

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@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