The son of a major South Florida Democratic political donor may try to unseat a Miami Republican congressman, now that the district has been redrawn to be more favorable to Democratic candidates.
Andrew Korge, son of Hillary Clinton fundraiser Chris Korge, has called several financial backers to see if they'd support his rookie candidacy for Congress against U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- who is already challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo.
In a statement to the Miami Herald, the younger Korge acknowledged Thursday he's thinking of jumping in the race.
"Numerous community leaders, Democratic donors, and citizens have encouraged me to consider several options including running in 2016 for the seat currently held by Carlos Curbelo," the statement read in part. "After knocking on more than a thousand doors over the past few months, it is also very clear that people are hungry for leaders who will work to strengthen the middle class, provide a living wage, protect our environment from big oil's destructive ways, and have a 21st century view of foreign policy. Though Congressman Curbelo has attempted to paint himself as a moderate, he has failed to lead on all of these important issues and continues to support policy ideas that have failed for decades.
"With all of that said, I have not made a decision yet. I first need to determine what is best for my family and for the citizens I seek to represent. Once I do this, I will make a final decision."
Florida's protracted redistricting saga had prompted Korge to fundraise for a Florida Senate campaign without having a specific seat to seek. He filed his candidacy for 2020, to replace Miami Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis -- betting that Margolis might retire in 2016, and Korge would have a leg up in the race. State Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach is also a candidate for the seat.
But Margolis hasn't announced her retirement, and Korge has said he doesn't want to take on the longtime incumbent. He'd have to move -- possibly to Broward or Palm Beach county -- to run for another Democratic-leaning district, assuming he doesn't want to mount a primary campaign against any other sitting Democrat.
Korge and his father met recently with former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo's predecessor whose name has lingered as a potential 2016 candidate. Garcia has apparently yet to decide on a run, and the meeting ended without the clarity Korge sought. Garcia did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. He and Taddeo, both former chairpersons of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, remain friendly.
Taddeo declined to comment. She launched her candidacy early, in April, encouraged by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which considers the seat a high-profile pickup opportunity. National Democrats are unlikely to welcome a contested primary that could bruise their nominee and let the unchallenged Curbelo sit on his campaign cash until the general election.
Curbelo has been among the most prodigious freshmen fundraisers in Congress. He had nearly $1.2 million in the bank as of the end of September, compared to Taddeo's $358,000 (which was boosted by $75,000 in personal funds Taddeo injected into her account the same month). Curbelo also declined to comment.
Korge had more than $137,000 on hand for his state campaign as of the end of October. Friends of Andrew Korge, a political action committee managed by his father, had more than $228,000. Federal election law prohibits candidates from transferring their state campaign funds to federal accounts, so if Korge were to run for Congress, he would have to return donors' money and ask them to contribute to his new campaign account instead.
Still, Korge is pointing to the $365,000 in the bank for his campaign and state PAC as a sign that he could outraise Taddeo, a better known candidate who last year ran as Charlie Crist's running mate in the Florida governor's race. It's not guaranteed that donors for Korge's state race would stick with him, though, which is why he's reaching out to them. A national Republican source told the Herald the GOP would be worried about the Korge family's wealth and extensive fundraising network.
The behind-the-scenes moves in the race began after the Florida Supreme Court last week accepted the final congressional map, which made voter composition of the 26th district -- already a swing seat stretching from Kendall to Key West -- slightly more Democratic. In a presidential election year like 2016, when more progressives tend to vote, the map made Curbelo's Hispanic-majority seat even more attractive to Democrats.
In 2012, President Obama won the district with its existing boundaries by 7 percentage points. He won the district with its new boundaries by 11 points.
Chatter of a Taddeo/Korge divide picked up a few days before the court's ruling, when Taddeo didn't attend a fundraiser Chris Korge held for Clinton in his Pinecrest home. Taddeo had inquired about going without having to donate to Clinton -- a courtesy sometimes extended to other candidates and elected officials -- but apparently decided not to go after learning of the Clinton team's policy to charge all attendees.
This post has been updated.