October 21, 2014

Final Miami congressional debate touches on abortion, education, immigration


U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and rival Carlos Curbelo risked political fatigue by agreeing to seven debates. But crisp performances in their final faceoff Tuesday made a strong case for forcing candidates to confront each other repeatedly, especially if each event appeals to a different audience.

The opponents even managed to reveal new policy disagreements in the Spanish-language exchange that wrapped up the two candidates’ busy debate season.

The debate covered new ground on education, abortion and immigration. Moderators also expanded on the minimum wage, a key issue for Hispanic voters, who make up 59 percent of Florida’s 26th congressional district. It spans Westchester to Key West.

Curbelo said last week he would prefer the minimum wage rise naturally and not by government mandate. When pressed Tuesday by one of three moderators, Univision network anchor Jorge Ramos, Curbelo said he supports a higher, government-imposed wage, but not as high as the $10.10 an hour backed by Garcia. A lower compromise would threaten fewer jobs, Curbelo said.

More here.

Democrats try new jab against Carlos Curbelo after GOP shifts criticism of Joe Garcia


The physics law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction may also apply to politics.

As Republicans shift their line of attack against Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrats have also added to their message criticizing Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released two Spanish-language television commercials Tuesday. One maintains the party's chief jab against Curbelo, over a secretly recorded comment in which he said Medicare and Social Security amount to a "Ponzi scheme." Curbelo has said the phrase was a figure of speech and "of course" he doesn't think the federal programs have anything to do with criminal operations.

But the other ad focuses on education, which Garcia only touched on in a prior campaign spot. Curbelo is a Miami-Dade school board member who has trumpeted how the board has helped Superintendent Alberto Carvalho shrink the size of the school system.

"Carlos Curbelo voted to cut 1,000 positions from our schools, including guidance counselors and college advisors," the ad says. Later, it adds: "Carlos Curbelo co-authored the agenda that cut $1.3 billion from our schools."

The later claim is an apparent reference to Curbelo's participation four years ago in Florida Gov. Rick Scott's education transition team. Scott later backed statewide education budget cuts. What the DCCC's ad doesn't say is that Curbelo wrote in 2012 that those cutbacks represented a "colossal" reduction leading to an "untenable" situation for public schools.



GOP defends Carlos Curbelo on Medicare, pivoting away from ethics attacks against Joe Garcia


National Republicans are coming to the aid of Carlos Curbelo in countering attacks over his criticism of Medicare and Social Security. Democrats and U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia have bashed Curbelo over his secretly recorded comment that the federal benefits amount to a "Ponzi scheme."

In a sign that their efforts might be working in the close race, Curbelo and the National Republican Congressional Committee have released a new set of political commercials touting Curbelo's support for the entitlements, at least for current and soon-to-be seniors. Republicans had focused their earlier attacks on the criminal investigations that engulfed Garcia's 2012 and 2010 campaigns. Those ads are still running.

A Curbelo spot on Spanish-language radio features the candidate, a Miami-Dade County school board member, telling voters Garcia has lied about his opponent's stance.

A new television ad unveiled Tuesday by the NRCC takes a similar tack. It refers to Garcia's ads as "misleading and false" -- an apparent reference to a PolitiFact Florida "False" rating for an early Garcia spot that accused Curbelo of wanting to "end the Medicare guarantee." That ruling came before the Democrats recorded Curbelo saying he backs several reforms to the program.

"The truth? It was Garcia who supported Obamacare, cutting $700 billion from Medicare," the NRCC's new ad says. "And it was Garcia who supported a plan to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69, and cut benefits."

Those claims actually stretch the truth, as we detailed last week when Curbelo unveiled a similar TV commercial.


October 19, 2014

'Mediscare' accusations abound in debate between Miami congressional candidates


Accusing each other of trying to scare voters, Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and competitor Carlos Curbelo appeared in a pointed live television debate Sunday, a day before early voting begins in the close political contest.

Garcia, a freshman Democrat seeking reelection, charged Curbelo with misleading voters by referring to Social Security and Medicare as a “Ponzi scheme” that might not be around for future generations.

“He talks about turning the page, but what he’s turning the page to is fear tactics and scare tactics,” Garcia said.

Curbelo, a Republican Miami-Dade County School Board member, threw the accusation back at Garcia for running advertisements that claim Curbelo would end Medicare benefits for seniors.

“That is the ultimate hypocrisy,” Curbelo said.

The exchange was one of several cutting ones in the debate on WPLG-ABC 10’s This Week in South Florida, the first one between the men in Miami-Dade broadcast in English. They faced off last week on a Spanish-language station.

More here.

October 18, 2014

Race between Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo comes down to the wire


The ghost of David Rivera lingers over the fierce race for Florida’s southernmost congressional district.

Engulfed in scandals, he lost the seat two years ago and came in fourth place this year when he tried to win the Republican Party’s nomination again.

But his tainted legacy is never too far from his former opponents.

The man who won this year’s GOP primary, Carlos Curbelo, is campaigning as the anti-Rivera. The man Curbelo wants to defeat, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, is seeking reelection without having the vulnerable Rivera to use as target practice.

Garcia’s own 2012 political advertising — hammering Rivera as corrupt — has come back to haunt him.

More here.

October 17, 2014

Rothenberg Political Report switches FL-26 rating to 'Pure Tossup'


Did the race between Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo get a little tighter?

That's the opinion of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, which on Friday switched its rating of the contest to "Pure Tossup" from "Pure Tossup/Tilts Democratic."

Curbelo's campaign touted the change in a news release.

Congressional District 26 is one of two competitive races in Florida, and the most competitive in the country among districts where a majority of voters are Hispanic.

Rothenberg switched the rating in the state's other close race -- FL-02 -- to "Pure Tossup" from "Pure Tossup/Tilts Republican," benefiting Democrat Gwen Graham, who is challenging Republican Rep. Steve Southerland in the Panhandle.

Loophole allows Miami congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo to keep firm clients secret


As a member of the Miami-Dade County school board, Carlos Curbelo has voted on education policies and schools contracts for four years. Now, running for a congressional seat, he’s looking to have a say in far more consequential government decisions.

For most of that time, Curbelo has been drawing a six-figure salary to represent government and public-relations clients.

Yet the Republican candidate refuses to disclose who the clients are.

Some of them are political candidates who have hired Curbelo as a campaign strategist or Spanish-language media spokesman. Those clients are publicly known. But the others aren’t, raising questions as to why Curbelo insists on keeping them secret.

“He’s violating the spirit of the rules,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a liberal watchdog group. “Technically, he is exploiting a loophole that allows him not to disclose.”

More here.

October 16, 2014

Carlos Curbelo touts more GOP absentee ballot returns so far in Miami congressional race


From a press release (read a broader analysis of absentee ballot returns here):

Memo: Republicans Lead Big in Absentee Ballot Returns

To:         Interested parties 
From:   Carlos Curbelo Congress
Re:         Florida’s 26th CD Absentee Ballot Returns 
Date:     October 16, 2014

The numbers don’t lie (Joe Garcia has that covered). The momentum to turn the page on a corrupt incumbent that is surrounded by a history of scandals and investigations is clear. The numbers below show strong enthusiasm from Republican voters who are ready for new, ethical leadership.  

Absentee Ballot Return Numbers for FL26 as 10/15/14: Republican absentee returns in Congressional District 26 are at 51.4% of the 17,035 cast, and Republican ballots cast led 8,754 – 5,251 over the Democrat returns at 30.8%, with 3,030 Other/No Party votes cast making up 17.8% of the ABS to date.

Total: 17,035
Republican: 8,754 
Democrat: 5,251
Other: 3,030  

October 15, 2014

Carlos Curbelo asks GWU to be lenient with students that let in tracker who recorded 'Ponzi scheme' line


Democrats pounced on Carlos Curbelo's remark last month that Social Security and Medicare amount to a "Ponzi scheme." George Washington University pounced on the students who let a Democratic tracker secretly record the comment, delivered to college Republicans.

After learning that the students could face a potential suspension, Curbelo's campaign sent a letter to the university this week requesting leniency.

"While the act may constitute a violation of university policy, we strongly believe that the measures shouldn't disrupt the academic careers of young people who were obviously manipulated by a reckless campaign," wrote Curbelo's campaign manager, Nicole Rapanos.

Curbelo's camp may blame Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia for the incident, but the video, first published by the Miami Herald, originated from national Democrats based in Washington D.C.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said the video shows Curbelo as "out of touch" with constituents in Florida's 26th congressional district. PolitiFact Florida has rated the "Ponzi scheme" claim False.

We raised $600K in 3rd quarter, Joe Garcia campaign says


From a press release:

Miami, FL– The Joe Garcia campaign has raised more than $600,000 in the third quarter of 2014, bringing the total raised for the grassroots campaign to re-elect Rep. Garcia to more than $3.4 million for the 2014 cycle.  The campaign is pleased to also report over $1.1 million cash on hand allowing Joe to continue to build momentum and strength for his re-election campaign to put South Florida first.  The strong third quarter numbers are the largest quarterly numbers posted to date by Rep. Garcia and have a median donation of $25 which speaks to the massive grassroots nature of this campaign.    

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