October 24, 2014

Cook Political Report: Miami Rep. Joe Garcia one of 'most vulnerable Democrats'


South Florida voters used to competitive political races -- this is the nation's largest purple state, after all -- may not realize just how important the tossup congressional contest between U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo is nationally.

On Friday, 11 days before the election, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington D.C. released its analysis of vulnerable Democratic incumbents. And Garcia is on it.

The report notes that Garcia has attacked the Republican Curbelo for calling Social Security and Medicare a "Ponzi scheme" but doubts how effective that message has been, considering it did little to hurt the GOP in a 2010 Indiana campaign. It also mentions the criminal investigation that landed Garcia's former chief of staff in jail, and the fact that many voters who cast ballots in 2012 may sit out this year's midterms.

"Garcia is certainly one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country," the report concludes.

Read it here (subscription required).

October 23, 2014

So much for that 'final' debate? Carlos Curbelo, Joe Garcia could face off again


Looks like the final debate held between Carlos Curbelo and U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia on Tuesday night may not have been so final after all.

The two camps say they have agreed to another debate next week -- except each side refers to a different debate.

Curbelo's spokesman, Wadi Gaitan, said both candidates were confirmed to appear at 8 p.m. Monday on Ahora with Oscar Haza, a Spanish-language program that airs on WSBS-TV, known as Mega TV. But Garcia's spokesman, Miguel Salazar, said the Democratic incumbent thought he could make the debate but won't be able to because he will be campaigning in the Florida Keys until late in the day. Producers are trying to land a new date, according to the station.

Meanwhile, Salazar said Garcia has agreed to face Curbelo at 8 p.m. Tuesday on A Fondo with Pedro Sevcec, which airs on WJAN-TV, known as América TeVe. Haza's and Sevcec's shows are local Spanish-language television rivals. Gaitan said the Republican challenger has yet to receive confirmation about Tuesday's debate; Curbelo long ago accepted the station's invitation but because Garcia hadn't, the event had been planned as a one-on-one interview.

The opponents have already participated in seven debates, with Curbelo, a Miami-Dade County school board member, repeatedly calling for more of them.

October 22, 2014

Koch brothers mentioned in latest Joe Garcia ad


In his latest television commercial, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia continues to hammer Carlos Curbelo over calling Medicare and Social Security a "Ponzi scheme." That's in case any interested voter has somehow managed to miss the phrase in a barrage of advertising from the Democratic incumbent against his Republican challenger.

The twist to the spot that began airing Wednesday: The ad throws in a mention to Charles and David Koch, the industrialist brothers whose outside groups have spent big bucks to attack the congressman. That's in addition to continuing to call Curbelo a tea-partier, even though the Republican Miami-Dade County school board member supports same-sex marriage and immigration reform.

"Oil billionaires are propping up Curbelo and tea party Republicans to buy support for their radical plans to privatize Social Security," the ad says.

Curbelo's campaign called the spot misleading -- and repeated Curbelo's debate line trying to turn the tea-party tables on Garcia.

"The only candidate with ties to the tea party is Joe Garcia, whose campaign is under federal criminal investigation for recruiting and likely financing tea party candidate Roly Arrojo," Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan said in a statement.


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.