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Attacks begin among GOP rivals in Miami congressional race


Miami congressional candidate Ed MacDougall has begun to attack Carlos Curbelo, the establishment favorite in the District 26 Republican primary.

Targeting reliable Hispanic voters, MacDougall's campaign has mailed fliers and released radio ads -- both in Spanish -- portraying Curbelo as liberal.

"Charlie Crist's friend Carlos Curbelo headed up the opposition to Marco Rubio when he ran for Senate," the radio spot begins.

The ad also claims Curbelo opposes repealing Obamacare and "supported a school-tax hike of $1.2 billion," referring to a bond referendum Miami-Dade County voters approved in 2012.

"Doesn't Carlos Curbelo seem like a Democrat?" the back of the flier reads. (View the front here.)

Curbelo backed Crist for Senate in 2010, at least initially, and was quoted criticizing Rubio, as MacDougall's flier correctly notes. But it leaves out that when Crist left the GOP to run as an independent, Curbelo supported Rubio.

On the federal healthcare law, Curbelo has said he would be in favor of repealing it and replacing it with an alternative. Perhaps he opposes repealing the law without substituting it, but the flier makes it sound as if Curbelo wants to keep the current law as-is, which is inaccurate.

As for school taxes, Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, opposed the bond on the dais. He  later voted to approve the ballot language for the referendum. The flier calls that a flip-flop, though the votes weren't taken on exactly the same issue. (The School Board intends to lower the property-tax rate this year in spite of bond debt, largely thanks to higher property values.)

"Carlos has been working to build and strengthen the Republican Party in our community since before he was old enough to vote, and he has a strong record of driving a conservative reform agenda as a policymaker," Curbelo spokeswoman Nicole Rapanos said in a statement. "We will not be responding to the frivolous attacks of a desperate candidate who does not live in the District and is running a nasty campaign with the goal of dividing our community along ethnic and racial lines."

MacDougall has drawn the ire of his three rivals by attempting to appeal to non-Hispanic whites by handing out fliers -- in English -- stressing that the opponents are all Cuban-American. Now it's MacDougall who's advertising in Spanish, trying to persuade at least a chunk of the Kendall-to-Key West district's heavily Hispanic electorate to vote for him. He would need Hispanic support to win the race.

As Rapanos noted, MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor, lives outside the district ("I could throw a stone and hit the district," he told the Miami Herald's editorial board this week). It's not a requirement to live within its boundaries. 

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck are also running, though Curbelo and MacDougall are the only two airing any sort of advertising leading up to Tuesday, when Miami-Dade absentee ballots will be mailed. Curbelo has raised far more funds to wage a longer campaign on the airwaves.

A fifth candidate, former Congressman David Rivera, has suspended his campaign. Because he hasn't formally withdrawn, his name will still appear on the Aug. 26 ballot.