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UPDATED GOP debate prompts Democrats to highlight 'scandals' in FL-26 race


The first debate among most of the Republican candidates running in Florida's 26th Congressional District will be held Monday night, with the likely absence of ex-Congressman David Rivera.

Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, former Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck are expected to attend the forum, hosted by the Women's Republican Club of Miami, Federated.

National Democrats are using the event as a way to attack Curbelo and Rivera. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Monday that it's adding the two men to its "House of Scandal" website criticizing GOP members of Congress.

Rivera's scandals are well-known. He's under federal investigation in a campaign-finance investigation stemming from a ringer candidate in the 2012 Democratic congressional primary. Most recently, a Florida administrative judge ruled Rivera broke ethics laws while in the state Legislature.

By comparison, the accusations the DCCC levels against Curbelo -- chief among them that he voted for school district contracts that benefited political donors -- appear less scandalous.

But expect scandal to be a buzzword in this campaign -- including against the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Joe Garcia. Garcia's former chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, served time in jail for orchestrating a 2012 scheme to unlawfully submit online absentee ballot requests.

UPDATE: Republicans have countered by noting Congressman Garcia's own negative headlines.

"Apparently, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi's attack dogs at the DCCC have yet to meet Joe Garcia or they would know that not only is Garcia under two FBI investigations, but his former chief of staff just got done doing jail time over his absentee ballot fraud scandal," Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. "If Garcia wasn't so corrupt we would actually feel sorry for him seeing these are the political 'geniuses' tasked with getting him re-elected and keeping him out of jail."

Curbelo also sent a response of his own, via text message, with the hyperbole that can be expected in these attack-counterattack situations: "I appreciate the DCCC making this election about ethics, considering that Joe Garcia is one of the most corrupt politicians serving in Congress."

Read the DCCC's press release below.

David Rivera, Carlos Curbelo added to DCCC’s ‘House of Scandal’ 

As Republicans in Florida’s 26th Congressional district  meet for a debate tonight, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding both David Rivera and Carlos Curbelo to a new website that will help voters hold Curbelo and Rivera accountable and keep track of Republicans’ ethical misdeeds.   

“This new site will be a resource for Republican primary voters as they force both David Rivera and Carlos Curbelo to answer for their similar records of ethical scandals and self-interested politics,” said David Bergstein of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Rivera and Curbelo never miss an opportunity to  help themselves at the expense of South Florida families – which is exactly why these two peas-in-a-pod would only make the dysfunction that Floridians hate about Washington worse.” 

Carlos Curbelo has come under scrutiny after revelations that he funneled millions of tax dollars in contracts to his campaign donors as a member of the Miami-Dade School Board. Curbelo himself contributed $1500 to scandal plagued former Congressman David Rivera, while his campaign accepted thousands from now indicted New York Congressman Michael Grimm. 

David Rivera was investigated by the FBI, IRS, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Miami-Dade State Attorney surrounding allegations that Rivera misused campaign funds for personal use and concealed income. State prosecutors were prepared to charge Rivera with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering before ending the case due to the statute of limitations and a loophole in state law. Rivera also faces a FBI and U.S. Attorney investigation into his involvement in funneling illegal contributions to a 2012 Democratic primary candidate to help bolster Rivera’s own campaign.