Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo has not officially entered the race to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia -- but the Miami Republican is enlisting some of the state's most prominent members of the GOP for his exploratory committee.
Over the weekend, the Curbelo team released the names of the Republicans who will be helping their candidate raise funds and other financial matters. The list of Curbelo supporters includes former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and prominent attorney, Republican activist and new media figure Justin Sayfie. Some of the Republicans supporting Curbelo, including Sayfie, have ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush.
"I thank each of these civic and business leaders for their commitment to our efforts, Curbelo said in a statement. I believe the people of Congressional District 26 deserve effective representation in Washington that makes education a national priority, promotes responsible economic growth, and fights for accountability and integrity in government. I grew up in southwest Dade. My wife and I are raising our daughters here, and I have been honored to represent its residents since 2010 on the School Board. I look forward to continuing this conversation with our community."
Garcia was able to cruise to victory in 2012 with the combination of President Barack Obamas strong performance in the district and the scandal-plagued career of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera. But, while the Democrats have momentum here, Republicans are optimistic about picking up this congressional seat in 2014.
This is evidenced by the increasing number of Republicans looking at running in this race. While Curbelo remains technically out of the race for the moment, Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, a businessman, former police officer and Vietnam veteran, is already in the race. So is Joe Martinez, a former Miami-Dade County Commission chairman who ran for mayor last year.
With his new endorsements, Curbelo could have luck ensuring that other prominent Republicans remain on the sidelines. Florida Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, is clearly looking at entering the race. There are also rumors that Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera, best known in Tallahassee for leading Republicans in the Florida House, could be jumping in. Other possible candidates include Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami.
In this early stage of the 2014 election cycle, Curbelo has done well in securing some of the states leading Republicans. At the very least, they should be able to help him raise funds and ensure some of the other candidates remain out of the race.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this exclusively for Sunshine State News.