Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo Get Ready to Rumble in South Florida

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: August 26, 2014 11:20 PM
Carlos Curbelo and Joe Garcia

Carlos Curbelo and Joe Garcia

Touting the support of former Gov. Jeb Bush and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on Tuesday night Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo won the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in November. Garcia ranks as one of the top Republican targets in the nation.

With 97.3 percent of the votes in, Curbelo led the five-candidate field with 47.1 percent. Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall placed second with 25.2percent followed by former Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez in third with 17.4 percent. Scandal-plagued former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., who beat Garcia in 2010 but lost in the rematch in 2012, flopped in his comeback bid taking fourth with 7.5 percent. Attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck lagged in fifth with 2.8 percent.

Garcia quickly went on the attack as soon as Curbelo was declared the victor.

“This election is about choosing a representative who will put our South Florida values first,” Garcia said. “Someone who will fight for the middle class. For a better economy and for better jobs. We don’t need someone like Carlos Curbelo -- a lobbyist who refuses to disclose his big money clients and is only looking out for his own political interests.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) quickly followed suit, releasing a memo to the media on Tuesday night attacking Curbelo.

“For the last two weeks, Carlos Curbelo has limped through his primary refusing to answer a simple question: will you disclose your lobbying clients?” the DCCC wrote in the memo. “He’s been hounded on local media appearances, slammed by his Republican opponents and called out by a local political commentator for refusing to reveal any potential conflicts of interest with his work on the School Board. Curbelo even went so far as to challenge his opponents to ‘file a complaint’ against him.

“The questions surrounding Curbelo’s lobbying work follow a Miami New Times report revealing that Curbelo ‘has a history of approving contracts for campaign donors’ on the School Board, funneling millions of tax dollars to his political cronies,” the DCCC added. “But Curbelo’s lobbying scandal is just one example of how he’s putting himself and his political ambitions over South Florida’s values: Curbelo has pandered to the far right-wing by calling for the indiscriminate deportation of immigrant children caught in the border crisis, supports the Republican budget ending the Medicare guarantee (even though he admits he didn’t read it), and helped devise Rick Scott’s education proposals that slashed support for public schools.

“Rep. Joe Garcia has already earned a reputation for putting South Florida first in Washington,” the DCCC concluded. “He’s quickly distinguished himself as a leading champion for comprehensive immigration reform, led the charge to pass a bipartisan bill capping flood insurance rates, and has been a proven advocate for local businesses and job creation.”    

While noting that President Barack Obama beat out Romney in the South Florida district back in 2012, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) insisted Garcia will be vulnerable come November.

“Florida’s 26th District is one of the best pickup opportunities for Republicans this fall,” the NRCC maintained in a memo sent out to the media on Tuesday night. “While this district voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2012, Joe Garcia’s dismal first year in office solidified this race as one to watch. Starting early into his first term, Garcia was mired in scandal thanks to his absentee voter fraud plot that caused two of his staffers, one who was his longtime political aide and best friend, to lose their jobs. The former longtime political aide who also served as Garcia’s chief of staff was also sent to jail for 90 days thanks to the bone-headed voter fraud plot. Not only is Garcia still under investigation for the voter fraud scheme, but his 2010 campaign is also under federal investigation thanks to a possible straw candidate plot.

“Voters of South Florida are sick and tired of the corrupt politics of days past and Garcia’s time is about to expire,” the NRCC continued. “Carlos Curbelo is a fresh-faced young businessman who has served his community on the School Board and offers voters a clear contrast against Garcia’s ethically challenged ways. Curbelo has been on the air running TV ads and has worked tirelessly on the campaign trail which makes this seat a great pickup opportunity for the GOP. National Democrats should be worried that a seat they need to keep, which Obama won by a large margin, is up for grabs thanks to the ill-advised wrongdoings of their candidate.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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