October 15, 2014

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."

Republicans use Miami Rep. Joe Garcia's own words against him in new 'scandal' ad


Joe Garcia won his South Florida congressional seat two years ago in part by attacking then-Rep. David Rivera, who was plagued by state and federal investigations, on his integrity.

Now Carlos Curbelo is trying to the same thing against Garcia -- and his supporters have the congressman's own words to use against him.

Republicans on Tuesday revealed a television advertisement that extensively quotes a 2012 spot by Garcia. It's the second 2014 campaign spot in which conservatives accuse Garcia of hypocrisy by attacking him with his own promises. One was launched last week by the American Action Network.

The latest piece, by the National Republican Congressional Committee, cites Garcia decrying "Scandals. Corruption. Partisan infighting."

"I say enough is enough," Garcia says.

Then comes the voice-over: "Joe Garcia's only added to the lies and scandals."

That refers to a state investigation that led Garcia's former chief of staff to plead guilty to attempted absentee-ballot manipulation, and to an ongoing federal investigation into Garcia's 2010 campaign over a suspected straw candidate.

"Corrupt Congressman Joe Garcia ran on a promise that he would end corruption in South Florida," NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said in a statement. "Seems laughable now knowing Garcia has two criminal investigations into his 2010 and 2012 campaigns."

The ad also refers to Garcia's "misleading ads" rated False by PolitiFact Florida. Unmentioned is that the fact-checkers have made the same ruling against Curbelo.


October 13, 2014

Insults fly between Miami GOP congressional candidate and former Republican foe


Ed MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor who came a distant second to Carlos Curbelo in the Republican primary for Florida's 26th congressional district, has told acquaintances not to vote for Curbelo in the Nov. 4 general election.

In an email to Larry Hawkins, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner and state lawmaker, MacDougall said he couldn't endorse his former opponent because Curbelo refuses to disclose the clients of his government and public relations firm.

"It's not sour grapes, I can tell you that," Hawkins said of MacDougall, whom he has known for more than three decades.

Curbelo acknowledged Friday that among his former clients are Ecuadorean bankers Roberto and William Isaías.

"The people have no stomach for another scandal in this district," MacDougall wrote. "Carlos Curbelo refuses to release his lobbyist clients while serving on the Miami Dade School board. If he had done so and it proved honorable, I would support him. But he refuses, so this is the reason I ask all good republicans not vote for Carlos Curbelo.

Continue reading "Insults fly between Miami GOP congressional candidate and former Republican foe" »

Additional debate scheduled in Miami congressional race between Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo


Miami Rep. Joe Garcia has agreed to debate opponent Carlos Curbelo one more time, in a Spanish-language debate to be televised Tuesday night.

The debate, at 7 p.m. on WDFL-18, known as MiraTV, will be hosted by Roberto Rodríguez Tejera, who says the format will not be as structured as formal debates in which candidates' answers are timed.

Garcia had initially agreed to five debates, three in the Florida Keys and two in Miami-Dade County. Congressional District 26 covers the southern tip of the state, from Westchester to Key West. Curbelo had called out the Democrat for not accepting more invitations; Garcia had countered that his Republican challenger gives too many "canned" responses to make the events meaningful.

The congressman later said yes to an event hosted by the Key Largo Federation of Homeowners Associations and the Tavernier Community Association Candidate. That forum took place last Wednesday.

Garcia and Curbelo, a Miami-Dade school board member, are also scheduled to appear in televised debates Oct. 19 (in English) and Oct. 21 (in Spanish).

October 10, 2014

The client list: Carlos Curbelo represented Miami brothers wanted in Ecuador


Miami congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo until recently represented two wealthy brothers convicted in Ecuador of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars, the Republican acknowledged Friday.

The family of Roberto and William Isaías, who live in Miami, hired Curbelo and his firm to try to turn public opinion against the Ecuadorean government, according to Curbelo.

“Our main goal was to disseminate information about the government of Ecuador’s human-rights violations, lack of due process and ties to other rogue regimes,” he said. He added that he and his firm, Capitol Gains, represented the family for three years, “until a few months ago.”

Curbelo confirmed the relationship to the Miami Herald after being asked about it in an interview taped earlier Friday with Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4. The interview will air at 8 a.m. Sunday on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.

The Herald had learned about the relationship from Curbelo’s opponent, Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, who recalled running into Roberto Isaías at a Capitol Hill office building last year while Isaías made the rounds with Curbelo to offices of members of Congress.

More here.

Democratic poll: Joe Garcia leads Carlos Curbelo


A public-opinion poll of the hotly contested race for Florida's 26th congressional district shows incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia ahead of Republican opponent Carlos Curbelo, national Democrats said Friday.

Garcia leads Curbelo 45-40 percent, with 15 percent of respondents undecided, according to the poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The poll surveyed 400 likely voters, as identified by their voting record, in English and Spanish. Its error margin is 4.8 percent.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 28-Oct. 1. Democrats didn't release it until Friday -- nine days later -- after Republicans touted a second poll showing Curbelo in the lead.

The first GOP survey was commissioned by Curbelo and the second by Saint Leo University Polling Institute, which relied on automated telephone calls that tend to skew results toward older, more conservative voters with land lines. Saint Leo, which polled from Oct. 1-6, found Curbelo ahead 46-42 percent, with an error margin of 5 percent.

"Garcia's scandals are clearly hurting the freshman congressman," Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an email. 

Privately, political observers from both side have said the race is tight, with the candidates separated by only 1 or 2 percentage points -- essentially a tie. The district encompasses Westchester to Key West.

A memo by the DCCC summarizing its poll results says Garcia is winning independent voters with 51 percent of support, and that if undecided voters are split based on their party registration, Garcia's lead increases to 53-47 percent. Among poll respondents, 42 percent were Republican, 34 percent Democrat and 24 percent without political-party affiliation.

"The results of the survey come on the heels of increased communication highlighting Curbelo's comments in Washington calling Medicare and Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme,' indicating that Curbelo has done significant damage to himself and that this is a powerful line of attack in South Florida," the DCCC said.

The party declined to release further poll details, including support for each candidate by respondents' ethnicity.

October 09, 2014

All Medicare, Social Security (with Obamacare cameo!) in latest ads by Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo


Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia keeps hammering Republican opponent Carlos Curbelo -- this time in a Spanish-language radio advertisement -- over Curbelo's secretly recorded remark that Medicare and Social Security amount to a "Ponzi scheme."

Curbelo, for his part, has unveiled a new line of attack by tweaking one of his television ads to bash Garcia over a vote indirectly related to Social Security, and over his endorsement of the Affordable Care Act.

Garcia's new 60-second spot (listen to an earlier one here), titled "Two-faced" in English, spares no punches. "Corporate lobbyist Carlos Curbelo is lying," it begins. "In Florida, he says one thing about Social Security and Medicare. But at a Republican meeting in Washington D.C., he said what he really thinks." 

Curbelo told college Republicans at George Washington University that the entitlement programs are "insolvent" and akin to a "Ponzi scheme." PolitiFact Florida ruled the latter comment False. He also said he would support other changes to the entitlement programs, including means-testing. 

Continue reading "All Medicare, Social Security (with Obamacare cameo!) in latest ads by Joe Garcia, Carlos Curbelo" »