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.    

Continue reading "We raised $600K in 3rd quarter, Joe Garcia campaign says" »

Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo and the politics of the Cuban Adjustment Act


Could the law that gives Cubans special immigration privileges survive a political debate to change it?

Miami Republican Carlos Curbelo says yes. The man he's trying to unseat, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, says no.

Any revision attempt would be too risky, Garcia argued at a debate Tuesday night, because it would remind lawmakers that immigrants from other nationalities don't get the same treatment as Cubans, who are allowed to legally remain in the U.S. after being here for one year and one day.

"You can't revise it," Garcia said. "If you revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, they will take it away from you."

Curbelo has said the law, enacted by Congress in 1966, should be tightened to apply to victims of political persecution and not just so-called economic refugees, who travel frequently back to the island.

"As an American citizen, I cannot support the abuse of the Cuban Adjustment Act," he said in the debate. "It must be preserved for people who are victims."

Garcia acknowledged the abuse but compared it to an office worker stealing supplies: "That doesn't mean you're going to eliminate all paper clips."

In response, Curbelo dismissed Garcia's "all-or-nothing" approach and tried to paint him as a phony bipartisan for having once referred to Republicans on the House floor as "this Taliban."

The two men are vying to represent Florida's 26th congressional district, where a growing number of voters are non-Cuban Hispanics, such as Venezuelans and Colombians. Garcia said he wished there were a similar immigration law for other groups, particularly Venezuelans. He has asked the Obama administration, to no avail, to let more Venezuelans stay in the U.S.

Deep-pocketed super PAC releases second attack ad against Joe Garcia


"We can do better than Joe Garcia," says a new television advertisement from Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC that now has two spots running against the Miami Democratic congressman.

The conservative group, which is funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and bills itself as a "free-market" organization, continues to hammer Garcia in the new ad over investigations into his past campaigns, making particular note of how the incumbent paid his former chief of staff a "campaign win bonus" even after the staffer was suspected of orchestrating an illegal absentee-ballot request scheme. He later ended up in jail.

The ad also criticizes Garcia for defending Obamacare "even with a double-digit premium increase" and for saying that "the economy is in a good place."

"Does that sound right to you?" the ad's narrator asks. She makes no mention of Garcia's Republican opponent, Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo.

In a debate Tuesday night, Garcia noted most of the ads against him have been funded by outside political groups and not from Curbelo himself, suggesting that, if elected, Curbelo would be subject to their interests.

"It's becoming a daily occurrence that lobbyist Carlos Curbelo -- who has been rejected by local members of his own party for saying one thing to Floridians and then calling Medicare and Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme' in Washington -- is forced to rely on shady out-of-state groups with little regard for South Florida's values in order to prop up his campaign," Garcia spokesman Miguel Salazar said in a statement.


Ethics take center stage at Miami congressional debate


Bickering over ethics, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and challenger Carlos Curbelo spent half of their first debate in Miami-Dade County on Tuesday arguing over which one of them has cleaner hands to represent Florida’s 26th congressional district.

The first half of the free-flowing Spanish-language debate focused on policy issues. The candidates highlighted differences over the Affordable Care Act, the minimum wage and Cuba.

But the rest of the hour-long exchange turned into a tit-for-tat over character and integrity — a line of attack that has been chiefly deployed by Curbelo and his Republican supporters against Garcia, the incumbent Miami Democrat.

“In the last few years, three people have ended up in jail: one, Joe Garcia’s chief of staff over absentee-ballot fraud in the 2012 election; the other two, for crimes committed by the Republican campaign of ex-Congressman David Rivera,” Curbelo said. “This is unacceptable.”

Garcia acknowledged past “mistakes” but pivoted to criticize Curbelo for repeatedly refusing to disclose the clients of his government and public relations firm, Capitol Gains.

More here.

October 14, 2014

Another former GOP foe declines to endorse Republican in Miami congressional race


Carlos Curbelo is not very popular among his former Republican primary rivals.

The GOP nominee for Florida's 26th congressional district, who is campaigning to unseat Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, tried a few weeks ago to win the endorsement of opponent Joe Martinez -- who turned him down.

"I told him we differed on a lot of things," Martinez said Tuesday.

That news comes on the heels of primary runner-up Ed MacDougall telling acquaintances they shouldn't vote for Curbelo because he won't disclose his government and public relations firm's clients.

Curbelo didn't seek MacDougall's endorsement, not after a bruising primary in which MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor, repeatedly attacked Curbelo, who ended up winning the five-way race by 22 points. 

But Curbelo, a Miami-Dade school board member, did meet with Martinez, a former county commissioner, after the Aug. 26 primary. Martinez placed third, though he received the second-highest number of votes in the Miami-Dade County portion of the district, which spans Westchester to Key West.

"They've been friends, and they talked about many things," Curbelo's communications director, Wadi Gaitan, said Tuesday.

According to Martinez, the two men didn't part on bad terms, but he couldn't back a candidate who had been supported by the GOP establishment to the dismay of other Republican hopefuls.

"We're talking about the Republican Party getting behind him and intervening in the primary, which they never should have done," Martinez said. "I was upset about that."

He blamed not only the National Republican Congressional Committee but also former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Miami Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all of whom flaunted their Curbelo endorsements before the primary election.

Martinez said he disagrees with Curbelo on policy matters, including Curbelo's support of the Common Core educational standards, immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, and gay marriage.

And he predicted that some longtime constituents would list "Joe Martinez" a write-in candidate on the ballot before voting for Curbelo or Garcia, "as a sign of protest to the Republican Party."