December 06, 2018

‘Trumpism isn’t the future’: Ousted Miami Republican reflects on election loss



Carlos Curbelo couldn’t win a two-front war.

National Democrats spent more money in Curbelo’s district than any other across the country on a healthcare-centric TV campaign. Donald Trump spent the final stretches of the campaign attacking immigrants, which didn’t help Curbelo in his majority-Hispanic district months after he led an unsuccessful GOP rebellion to force Congress to act on the issue.

And Curbelo’s Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, avoided strategic and ethical blunders that plagued former Rep. Joe Garcia, the Democrat Curbelo beat in 2014 and 2016.

The combination added up to a 1.8 percentage point loss.

“I think the number one factor in my race was spending,” Curbelo said, as he worked out of a Washington coffee shop during his final weeks in office. “We got outspent significantly and a lot of the casual voters that showed up, especially late, voted straight ticket Democrat and I’d say that was really what made the difference. The barrage of ads and negative attacks do work, as much as everyone says they hate them.”

Curbelo’s assessment of his race is a hat tip to national Democrats, who considered it a personal affront that he was able to win, by more than 11 percentage points, the most Democratic-leaning seat in the country held by a Republican in 2016. Instead of repeating mistakes like backing Annette Taddeo’s failed primary campaign against Garcia two years ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee encouraged Mucarsel-Powell to enter the race early and began a campaign focused on healthcare in a district where nearly 100,000 people are enrolled in Obamacare. The DCCC spent just under $7.2 million to defeat Curbelo, the most the group spent in any race across the country. The haul was the largest share of $20.1 million spent on TV ads in the district by campaigns and outside groups from both parties, according to Advertising Analytics. House Majority PAC, a super PAC that seeks to elect Democrats, also spent about $2.5 million on TV ads in the district.

More here.

October 19, 2018

Shalala, Mucarsel-Powell will not return money from Castro-supporting lawmaker


@martindvassolo @alextdaugherty

Barbara Lee never came to Miami.

But the mere mention of the California lawmaker’s name on the programming flier for a campaign event in Coral Gables was enough to trigger a protest, a call for South Florida Democratic candidates to divest from her campaign contributions and an attack ad from a Super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The congresswoman, who turned heads in 2016 by praising former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro after his death, was listed as an expected guest at a “Get Out the Vote” event on press releases issued by the campaigns of Democrat Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Despite the protest flare-up outside the event on Wednesday -- a crowd of mostly Cuban-American demonstrators yelled and waived anti-communism signs -- Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell said Thursday they will not return the $5,500 Lee donated to their campaigns ahead of the November election.

Lee, whose name was scrubbed from the event without explanation, donated $2,000 to the campaign of Shalala, who is running in Florida’s 27th Congressional District against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar.

Lee also donated $3,500 to Mucarsel-Powell, who is running in Florida’s 26th Congressional District against incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

In a statement to the Herald, Salazar campaign spokesman Jose Luis Castillo hammered Shalala for agreeing to appear alongside Lee and declining to return Lee’s donations.

“[Her] total disconnect and lack of empathy with this community is appalling,” he said. “Barbara Lee’s longtime admiration for Fidel Castro is deeply offensive to the Cuban community, as well as all freedom-loving people everywhere.”

After Castro’s death in 2016, Lee told the San Jose Mercury News that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss” and that she was “very sad for the Cuban people.”

“He led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people,” Lee said then, adding that during her eight meetings with Castro over the years, she found him to be a “smart man” and a “historian” who “wanted normal relations with the United States, but not at the expense of the accomplishments of the revolution.”

The candidates said they disagreed with Lee’s sentiments toward Castro and argued that the views of their donors are not necessarily representative of their own views, although demands that candidates return money from unsavory or controversial figures have already been an issue in the race for District 26.

More here.

October 16, 2018

Independent poll shows Carlos Curbelo with a slim lead over Debbie Mucarsel-Powell



An independent poll shows Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo with a 1 point lead over Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell—and a contingent of undecided voters large enough to decide the election.

A poll conducted by Mason Dixon Strategies and Telemundo 51 from October 3 to October 9 with 625 registered voters who said they were likely to vote showed a race that is essentially a toss-up for Curbelo’s Miami to Key West congressional seat that President Donald Trump lost more than 16 percentage points two years ago. Curbelo captures 46 percent support while Mucarsel-Powell takes 45 percent. Nine percent of voters are undecided as both campaigns spend millions on TV advertising.

Curbelo once had a lead in the race but Mucarsel-Powell has closed the gap in recent weeks through increased TV spending. Curbelo is better known than Mucarsel-Powell according to the poll and has a higher favorability rating, though Mucarsel-Powell has a lower unfavorable rating than Curbelo. The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points, meaning the race is essentially a tie.

More here.

October 12, 2018

This Democratic activist wants to be part of Florida’s blue wave

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Debbie Mucarsel-Powell volunteered for John Kerry’s Florida campaign and hosted house parties to rally support for Barack Obama. In 2016, she became a candidate herself, losing a bid to oust a Republican state senator.

That the Democrat is back in the running — this time challenging a Republican member of the U.S. House — comes as little surprise to those who know her.

“When I finally decided to run for Congress, my friends were like, ‘We were waiting for you to finally do something like this,’ “ she said in an interview in her campaign office as volunteers manned the phones. “I’ve always want to get involved.”

A native of Ecuador, who moved to South Florida in 1996, Mucarsel-Powell, 47, has done fundraising for community groups, including the Zoo Miami Foundation and the Coral Restoration Foundation. She also worked at Florida International University, where she raised money for healthcare programs. Politics has long been a passion.

“People think I’m some random woman Democrat who decided to run in the ‘Year of the Woman,’ “ Mucarsel-Powell said, referring to the record number of women running for office in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. “But I’ve been doing this work for 20 years.”

Though Mucarsel-Powell is not widely known, Democrats were pleased with her decision to challenge Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, in one of the districts that Democrats are hoping to flip. She’s picked up support from EMILY’s List, which backs pro-choice candidates, along with an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, who included her in a list of candidates his office says are in “close races in which his support would make a meaningful difference.”

Though Curbelo has outraised her, she’s been aggressive: She and her Democratic allies since mid-September have been up repeatedly with bilingual television and radio advertising. The push has the ability to change the momentum in the race, with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report changing the rating on the race from leaning Republican to a toss-up.

Unlike the other two Democrats looking to unseat Republicans from largely Hispanic Miami districts, Mucarsel-Powell is a native Spanish speaker. At a recent rally in support of union workers at the airport, she opened in Spanish, but closed in English.

Read more here.

Carlos Curbelo tries to distance himself from Trump — but they have something in common

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Carlos Curbelo is Extremely Online.

The second-term congressman seeking to win reelection in the most Democratic-leaning district in the country held by a Republican is no fan of President Donald Trump’s governing style and temperament, but the pair share a love of scrolling through their phones and tweeting at all hours of the day.

“Sorry Donald Trump but I’m calling the new NAFTA, NAFTA — maybe NAFTA 2.0,” Curbelo tweeted in jest when Trump announced a new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal recently. “Glad to see some progress on trade with our allies.”

A few minutes later, Curbelo tweeted his disapproval of Trump’s treatment of a reporter, when the president said, “I know you’re not thinking” to a journalist trying to ask him about the FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“If I think something’s terrible, I’m going to say it; if I think something’s funny, I’m going to say it,” Curbelo said. “I criticized [Trump] for the way he talked to that reporter. It pissed me off. She [the reporter] has the same name as my wife. Why do you have to be such a jerk?”

Curbelo, 38, is seeking to keep his seat for a third term in November, and he’s been in constant campaign mode since July 2013. But this time around he won’t be facing former Rep. Joe Garcia, whom he ousted by three percentage points in 2014 before beating him by more than 11 points in 2016 in a year where Trump was unpopular in the Miami-Dade portion of his district, which also includes the Florida Keys. His 2018 opponent is Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a former nonprofit fundraiser who ran an unsuccessful state Senate campaign two years ago in a district that overlaps with Curbelo’s Miami-to-Key West seat.

Mucarsel-Powell criticizes Curbelo’s votes in favor of the unsuccessful Obamacare repeal bill, and says his support of a successful tax overhaul he helped draft hurt working-class voters in a majority Latino district that includes more than 90,000 Obamacare recipients. She has recently outspent him on TV advertising, though Curbelo maintains a fundraising advantage in a race where both national parties are investing millions. The race is seen as a toss-up.

“The extreme left has spent millions here over the last five years attacking me and it hasn’t worked because my community knows me,” Curbelo said. “I know that this community does not want any party puppet to represent them in Washington.”

More here.

October 10, 2018

Gun control group investing millions in the 2018 election endorses a Miami Republican

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A national gun control group co-founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is endorsing Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the nation’s most expensive House race.

Everytown for Gun Safety announced Tuesday that Curbelo was one out of 10 Florida lawmakers running for statewide or federal office who received an endorsement, and the only Republican on the list. Curbelo faces Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the November general election for a Miami-to-Key West seat that has seen more TV spending from both sides than any other House race in the country.

“A sincere national dialogue and Congressional action to modernize gun safety has remained elusive for far too long,” Curbelo said in a statement. “Public officials — and our society as a whole — must work together to close outdated loopholes and address vulnerabilities in our laws, while still protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights. I’m humbled by this endorsement, and I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to keep Americans safe.”

Curbelo has not been able to pass substantive gun control legislation over the past two years in Washington, though he did introduce a bill after the Las Vegas shooting that would ban devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire like automatic weapons and he criticized the National Rifle Association when it didn’t back his bill. His campaign also donated money to a transportation fund that allowed Parkland students to attend the March For Our Lives in Washington.

Mucarsel-Powell has also made guns a part of her campaign message, noting in ads that she lost her father to gun violence when she was 24. She supports an assault weapons ban while Curbelo has said an assault weapons ban should be “on the table.”

Everytown is one of the nation’s largest gun control organizations and announced on Monday that it plans to dump at least $2 million to help the Democratic candidates seeking Florida cabinet positions — and Republicans running for the state Senate who helped pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act over the objections of the NRA. The organization has also made six-figure donations to Democrat Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign.

“Everytown is a bipartisan organization and we support candidates of both parties who stand up for gun violence prevention,” spokesperson Kate Folmar said in a statement. “Both Rep. Curbelo and his opponent are champions of gun violence prevention. Rep. Curbelo has a proven track record of Congressional leadership on gun safety issues and we are proud to endorse him.”

More here.

October 08, 2018

Republicans see tax cuts as a way to motivate voters when Democrats have enthusiasm



Republicans are likely going to lose congressional seats in November, a trend that goes back decades when a new president’s party also controls Congress.

But in an environment where incumbent South Florida Republicans are mostly playing defense on issues like healthcare, immigration and guns, there’s one issue where they think action over the last two years can excite independents and the base alike: taxes.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo was partially responsible for writing the GOP tax bill, the most significant legislation that the Republican-controlled Congress passed under President Donald Trump. Each of the three Miami Republicans in the House, Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted for the final bill, which cuts taxes for most individuals for the next eight years, cuts corporate taxes and gives a bigger child tax credit to families. The bill will also likely blow a massive hole in the federal deficit.

“I think our biggest accomplishment was to pass historic tax reform legislation that has allowed an economic recovery to include more Americans,” Curbelo said. “That doesn’t mean everyone is in perfect financial shape in this country but without question since we passed tax reform, [employers] are investing more in American workers, businesses are coming back and foreign competitors are not beating us.”

The economy is also in an upswing, something that could bode well for Republicans campaigning on the tax bill. Unemployment is at a near 50-year low, though hiring and wage growth is sluggish. Republicans passed the bill on party lines and Democrats were left out of negotiations. A few Republicans from wealthier areas of New York and California voted against the bill because it capped the deduction on state, local and property taxes.

Some notable opposition to one part of the tax bill came from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who advocated for a slightly smaller corporate tax cut in exchange for an expanded child tax credit, though he is not up for reelection and ultimately voted for the final bill. 

Outside groups are touting the tax cuts, including a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan that opened a field operation in Curbelo’s district nearly 18 months ahead of Election Day.

“In my district the median family of four got tax relief of approximately $2,000,” Curbelo said. “Some people think that’s crumbs, but I know people who have said it’s the difference between taking a vacation or not or affording a car payment or not. It’s given a lot of families and individuals relief after a decade of stagnant wages and low growth. Things are getting better in our country economically.”

But the average tax cut disproportionately benefits wealthy Americans.

Households making $500,000 or more will see a 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent savings on their tax bill this year, while households making less than $75,000 will see a 1.6 percent savings at most, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Households making more than $1 million will see a 0.9 percent tax savings in 2027, after the tax cuts passed by Congress sunset, and households making less than $75,000 will see a slight tax increase.

More here.

Carlos Curbelo and Debbie Mucarsel Powell's race tops nationwide TV spending



The constant TV ads featuring Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and his Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell are unrivaled among House campaigns nationwide. 

A list of the top 10 House races by TV spending from Kantar Media shows Florida's 26th Congressional District at the top of the list, with $16.9 million spent so far, according to consultancy group Kantar Media. The race between Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell is competitive, and Mucarsel-Powell's campaign and her Democratic allies have been spending at a clip of about $1 million a week on TV ads for the past month. 

The $16.9 million includes spending from outside groups that are not affiliated with either campaign, like a Paul Ryan-backed super PAC that has launched ads attacking Mucarsel-Powell, though the campaigns themselves get favorable rates on TV advertising compared to outside groups.

Each of the top 10 most expensive races are Republican-held, indicating that the GOP is playing defense at is seeks to minimize losses to maintain control of the House past Election Day. 

Miami Republicans running for reelection grapple with Trump’s immigration record

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Donald Trump’s first year in office forced Miami Republicans to step on the third rail of GOP politics: immigration.

The president banned foreign nationals from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the country weeks after he took office, setting off protests around the country. He announced the end of an Obama-era program to prevent the deportation of immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children, calling on Congress to act. The Trump administration began separating families and children who crossed the border illegally, and some parents were deported while their kids remained in U.S. custody. And Trump canceled a temporary program that allowed immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation.

The three Miami Republicans in Congress, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, were opposed to all of these policy changes. The trio have the largest shares of eligible Latino voters in their districts among all Republicans in Congress and have tried for years to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. They want to prevent their law-abiding constituents from being deported, but they’ve been stymied by their own party.

All three GOP-held seats are being contested by serious Democratic candidates. Former nonprofit fundraiser Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is running against Curbelo, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala is running for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat, and former judge Mary Barzee Flores is running against Diaz-Balart.

“That’s been my biggest disappointment,” Diaz-Balart said about the lack of an immigration compromise in the past two years. “In order to get that issue done, you need to put hyper-partisanship aside. You need to have the trust of everybody around the table.”

Republicans in Congress have been unable to overrule the president’s executive order, find a solution for the young immigrants known as Dreamers and help individuals receiving Temporary Protected Status. Instead, they’ve been reliant on liberal judges to prevent deportations. Last week, a federal judge in California ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS, and Dreamers remain in legal limbo weeks from Election Day.

“Such great news for our South Florida community!” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted last week after the TPS decision. “We have wonderful folks from these countries who have been here legally and their pending deportations would be heartaches for their familias!”

The Democrats seeking to replace the trio largely agree with the South Florida Republicans on immigration policy, though they likely wouldn’t support handing Trump money for his border wall in exchange for protecting existing immigrants from deportation. They’re arguing that a Democratic majority in Congress is the way to get an immigration solution.

There isn’t any evidence that Curbelo and Diaz-Balart, along with Maria Elvira Salazar, the Republican seeking to replace Ros-Lehtinen, could convince the majority of their party to come up with a solution should they all win on Nov. 6. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart were part of a small group of lawmakers who first negotiated with Democrats to find a solution for Dreamers, an effort that fell two votes short. Then, they tried to negotiate with conservatives in their own party, an effort that saw a conservative compromise immigration bill fail badly.

“It’s truly disappointing that after months of broken promises from Speaker [Paul] Ryan for Dreamers, Congressman Curbelo caved so easily to House Republican Leadership and handed over every piece of leverage on DACA to the most anti-immigrant Republicans in Congress,” Curbelo’s Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, said shortly after Curbelo’s compromise effort failed this summer.

More here.

October 05, 2018

Dem poll shows a swing in Curbelo's race



The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll in July showing their own candidate, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, losing to Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo by a wider margin than previous surveys. 

Things have changed. 

The DCCC released a poll on Friday morning showing the race between Mucarsel-Powell and Curbelo effectively tied, with Mucarsel-Powell up by two points in a poll conducted this week. Mucarsel-Powell is leading Curbelo 50 to 48 with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. The poll by GBA is the fourth poll in recent weeks to show a tightening race, and Mucarsel-Powell is currently outspending Curbelo on TV, though Curbelo likely maintains a fundraising advantage. 

"This 9-point shift since July’s survey, also conducted by GBA, reflects aggressive, early communication, driven by Debbie’s campaign and mirrored by the DCCC [advertising spending]" the polling memo said. "To date, that paid communication has focused primarily on the contrast between Congressman Curbelo’s record on healthcare in Washington and Debbie’s record of making affordable healthcare more accessible in South Florida." 

Curbelo pointed to a poll from the same time period last election cycle showing him down to former Rep. Joe Garcia, and Curbelo ended up winning by double digits. 

"Campaigns that are talking about polls are campaigns that are losing," Curbelo said earlier this week. "We’re confident in our data and the district."