September 12, 2016

SEIU backs Garcia for Congress, after siding with primary rival


Normally it would hardly be newsworthy for a major labor union to endorse a Democrat for Congress.

But the Service Employees International Union didn't back Joe Garcia in the primary for Florida's 26th congressional district. It backed his primary rival, Annette Taddeo, instead, a week before Garcia even entered the race. Garcia won

On Monday, SEIU formally threw its support behind him, backing the former congressman over the incumbent, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"Joe has the support of working families because working families know they can count on Joe," SEIU Florida Monica Russo said in a statement delivered by Garcia's campaign. "Joe has been in the trenches fighting alongside South Florida workers for years, advocating for higher wages, immigrant rights, affordable healthcare, women's right to choose, renewable energy, and more! He is not an average Joe, he is a champion for the working class."

September 08, 2016

2 South Dade politicians who backed Garcia in 2014 now back Curbelo


A pair of Homestead city council members are backing Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, switching their allegiances from Democrat Joe Garcia, whom they supported in 2014.

The Curbelo campaign released a endorsement Thursday from Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough, a Democrat, and last week from Councilman Jimmie Williams, who holds no party affiliation.

"Carlos has worked hard to improve access to quality education for every student and has advocated for criminal justice and immigration reform and funding for transportation and infrastructure," Fairclough said. "South Dade families need Carlos Curbelo to continue to represent us in Congress."

"Carlos is dedicated to bettering the lives of his constituents, making him an essential ally for our community," Williams said.

Both elected officials were behind then-Rep. Garcia two years ago. Curbelo has been campaigning as a moderate, saying in one of his TV ads that he values bipartisanship. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pushed back, arguing Curbelo is still too supportive of GOP leaders.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

A familiar flashpoint between Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo: Cuba

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Democrat Joe Garcia accused Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Wednesday of launching a "divisive" political ad espousing an "odious" policy toward Cuban immigrants.

In a Spanish-language TV interview, Garcia referred to Curbelo's recent ad highlighting the Miami congressman's legislation to curtail abuse of federal benefits by Cuban immigrants who frequently return to the island. Garcia called it "an odious, toxic political calculation."

"At least when Mr. Trump stands in front of me, he's my enemy and he says so," Garcia said, dropping the name of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. "Worse is the guy from my same community, my same culture, who stands next to me and sticks a dagger in our backs."

Curbelo's law would no longer let Cuban immigrants automatically qualify for refugee status, which allows them to obtain certain government benefits. Some so-called economic refugees have been taking the money and frequently returning to Cuba, which suggests the immigrants aren't fleeing political persecution. That was the reason for considering Cubans refugees in the first place.

"This country offers us limitless opportunities," Curbelo says in his ad. "We can't let anyone abuse its generosity."

Garcia said Curbelo's proposal would hurt "the defenseless, the disenfranchised, the ones who arrived yesterday, as if these people don't deserve the consideration that Curbelo's father received, that my grandfather received."

Garcia has long disagreed with calls to alter federal laws that benefit Cuban immigrants. Cuba was one of the key issues that divided Curbelo and Garcia in the 2014 race, which Curbelo won. The 2016 contest looks no different.

"It's disgusting language like this that made Garcia's short, scandal-plagued tenure so ineffective," Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "While Joe Garcia continues to push normalized relations that threaten Cuban refugee status entirely, Carlos' proposal will protect the benefits for true refugees who continue to escape the Castro regime's oppression." 

Garcia, who held the 26th district seat before Curbelo, boasted he won last week's Democratic primary despite being outspent by opponent Annette Taddeo. He credited knocking on voters' doors and sitting in their kitchens to sip coffee.

"Not only are we going to win" the general election, he predicted to América TeVé's Pedro Sevcec. "We're going to win handily."

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

September 05, 2016

Curbelo reveals 2 new TV ads, centered on the environment and immigration


In one TV ad, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is boating with one of his young daughters and talking in English about how nature is a key part of life -- and the economy -- in the Florida Keys. In the other, he's sitting around the kitchen table with his own mom and dad, who retell the story in Spanish about how they left Cuba for the U.S.

The message from the first ad: Curbelo is a Republican who cares about the environment and climate change (though he never utters the words "climate change"). The message from the second ad: Curbelo is a Cuban American willing to curtail "abuse" from some Cuban immigrants who receive U.S. government benefits.

Curbelo's two ads will start airing Tuesday, his campaign said: one in Monroe County and the other on Spanish-language networks across Florida's 26th congressional district, which extends from Westchester to Key West.

The Miami congressman is making an aggressive media push to kick of his Nov. 8 reelection campaign. His first TV ad came out last week, timed with the start of the college football season. He also put out his first Spanish-language radio ad last week, before Labor Day, the traditional start of general-election campaigns.

Curbelo has plenty of money in the bank for his tough race in a Democratic-leaning district against former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.



August 31, 2016

Curbelo touts bipartisanship in first TV ad


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will kick off TV advertising for his tough reelection campaign Thursday by comparing elusive bipartisanship in Congress with the upcoming college football season.

The Miami Republican's first TV spot shows him and his wife, Cecilia, in their kitchen -- she sporting University of Florida colors, he in a University of Miami polo.

"You can't let rivalry turn to bitterness," Curbelo says into the camera, alluding to fights among Republicans and Democrats. "For Washington politicians, party always comes first and solutions last. That's not me."

The kicker: "I don't care who scores, as long as it's a win for our community."

The ad is set to begin airing with the start of college football games -- and just two days after Democratic primary voters chose former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia to challenge Curbelo. Garcia, who lost to Curbelo two years ago, has long cast the Republican as a hardline conservative. Curbelo has worked assiduously to avoid that label and is running as an unabashed moderate in the newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning 26th congressional district.


August 30, 2016

Garcia wins squeaker over Taddeo, setting rematch against Curbelo

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Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia held off a political surge Tuesday by former friend and political ally Annette Taddeo to win the Democratic primary for Florida’s 26th congressional district, setting up a rancorous rematch against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who ousted Garcia from office two years ago.

“The campaign starts here,” Garcia said as he celebrated at a La Carreta Cuban restaurant in West Kendall. “Talking about the issues that matter to the people of Florida, clean water, the Zika virus, guns, and most of all, better jobs for our families.”

Garcia eked out a victory against Taddeo by 51-49 percent, according to unofficial Florida election results — even though he was outspent by about 4-to-1 by Taddeo, who raised more than twice as much as Garcia and had the political and financial support of the national Democratic Party.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

August 29, 2016

What you need to know for Tuesday’s primary election


@alextdaugherty and @doug_hanks

Planning to vote in Tuesday’s primary election? We’ve provided answers to a list of frequently asked questions.

Numerous races are on the ballot, notably the election for Miami-Dade County mayor, along with Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate. Various state legislative, school board, county commission and judicial seats are also up for grabs in Miami-Dade and Broward.

I’m not a registered Republican or Democrat. Should I bother to vote?

For some offices, like U.S. Senate and Congress, only registered members of a specific party may vote. But in Miami-Dade County, all registered voters can cast a ballot for mayor, school board, county commissioner and judge. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held in November for the top two finishers.

In Broward, independents can vote in non-partisan races, including contests for judge, state attorney and school board. Voters in both counties are also voting on a constitutional amendment about solar energy.

So is the mayor’s race in Miami-Dade ending Tuesday or not?

That depends. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the race ends. If not, the race heads for a November run-off on Election Day between the top two finishers.

That’s just for the mayor’s race?

No, that’s the rule for all non-partisan primaries, which is how most county-level and city-level races are decided. So school board races, judge races and other local posts could wind up on the November ballot if no winner is declared Tuesday.

What about the races for Miami-Dade County Commission?

Those three races would be eligible for a run-off, except each contest only has two candidates. A run-off is only a possibility with more than two candidates.

August 23, 2016

Emily's List flexes muscle in favor of Annette Taddeo--and against Joe Garcia

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A national political organization that helps progressive women win elections is throwing some weight around in a Miami congressional race, spending thousands on mailers for Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo -- and against her primary rival, former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia

A political action committee dubbed Women Vote!, which receives support from Emily's List, spent $11,163 on mailers against Garcia while spending about half that amount -- $5,751 -- on mailers supporting Taddeo. Both of the expenditures occurred on Aug. 18, Federal Elections Commission records show.

The anti-Garcia mailer hits the former representative over his votes on student loan rates and and connections to for-profit colleges. A stock photo of a student is placed next to an unattributed quote that reads "Joe Garcia took thousands of dollars from a for-profit college interest that scammed students, then voted to raise student loan interest rates. He had his chance and let us down." 

"I guess their campaign couldn’t find any actual South Florida students to falsely attack Joe," said Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez in a statement. "Not a surprise, Joe has worked hard to make college affordable for all families."

The mailer also says Garcia "took thousands of dollars from a for-profit college interest that scammed students, then voted to raise student loan interest rates" and goes on to state that Taddeo will work towards making college more affordable and protecting women's health, policy positions that Emily's List supports.

The pro-Taddeo mailer highlights her background, saying she "put herself through college and started a small business while raising a family." 

Garcia and Taddeo will face off on Aug. 30 for the right to take on incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Here is the anti-Garcia mailer: 


Here is the pro-Taddeo mailer: 

August 22, 2016

Annette Taddeo flubs claim of who paid for oppo research on Joe Garcia. It was her -- not the DCCC

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Ever since hackers published a cache of internal Democratic Party memos that painted him in a negative light, former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia has hammered primary rival Annette Taddeo of overzealous probing into his life for political gain.

In a televised debate Sunday, Taddeo claimed it was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that commissioned a 76-page opposition-research tome on Garcia.

"Every campaign does opposition research, and if you did some, I suspect that that's in the norm," moderator Michael Putney, of WPLG-ABC 10's "This Week in South Florida," began. "Now Mr. Garcia alleges that you did a huge amount of opposition research, including things which are kind of out of bounds. Did you?"

"No," Taddeo said. "I have not, actually, and um, you know, the research was actually done by the party."

"The Democratic Party?" Putney asked incredulously.

"Yes!" she said. "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."


It was Taddeo's own campaign that paid Spiros Consulting for the Garcia research. Campaign finance reports show she paid Spiros $8,250 in January and $1,375 in March -- a total of $9,625.

Garcia, for his part, has also paid for opposition research. His finance reports show a $6,000 payment to The Maccabee Group in June. But his campaign says that research was on Garcia himself -- a refresher on his past votes and statements -- and not on Taddeo.

An earlier version of this post misstated that Garcia's campaign spending was on opposition research on Taddeo.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Joe Garcia declines to explain post-debate outburst

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In an apparent attempt to turn the page on an embarrassing incident, former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia declined in an interview aired over the weekend to offer any details on his outburst last week at a Spanish-language TV debate moderator.

"I've been friends with these people for a long time," the Miami Democrat told "Al Punto Florida" in an interview aired Sunday. "In all these things, they as well as I have said what happened."

In fact, neither side has explained the incident, which was overheard by several América TeVé employees and related to the Miami Herald. Garcia wouldn't comment to the Herald last week. His spokesman, Javier Hernandez, insisted nothing had happened -- though it's clear from Garcia's response to "Al Punto Florida" that something did.

After a televised debate against primary rival Annette Taddeo, Garcia lashed out about perceived biased in the questions he was asked. During the heated argument, Garcia at one point used the insult "comemierda."

Garcia did reiterate to anchor Ambrosio Hernandez on "Al Punto Florida" that he apologized for using the wrong name last week for debate anchor Felix Guillermo. Garcia had repeatedly called him "Ricardo."

"But that's all that happened," he said.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff