The stakes are being raised in South Florida as a potential Republican presidential candidate and conservative groups are backing Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelos bid to defeat freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in what is expected to be one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation come November.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is looking at running for the presidency in 2016, announced on Tuesday that he is backing Curbelo over Garcia.
I have dedicated this year to introducing policy proposals on a wide range of issues affecting South Florida and the Keys that includes reforming our anti-poverty programs, creating jobs, and helping more people attain higher education, Rubio said on Tuesday. In the next Congress, Carlos Curbelo can help me deliver on these kinds of ideas as we serve the people of Florida's 26th Congressional District. I am proud to stand with Carlos Curbelo because he knows what needs to be done to make sure his daughters, my kids and their entire generation can achieve their American dream."
I admire Sen. Rubio's strong commitment to addressing our country's challenges -- both here at home and abroad, Curbelo said. I am grateful to have his support and look forward to working with him to advance a reform agenda that will empower the residents of Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys.
Curbelo offered fulsome praise for Rubio.
Sen. Rubio passionately believes in the powerful concept of American exceptionalism, and with his endorsement we are on the way to help the citizens of our great communities find their path to achieve and to lead their own exceptional lives, Curbelo said.
Curbelo is also relying on conservative groups which continue to throw their weight around in South Florida, backing the Republican hopeful against Garcia.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is targeting Garcia for his support of President Barack Obamas health-care law. On Tuesday, AFPs Florida chapter hit him with a new Web video.
"Congressman Garcia is still supporting Obamacare, even though he's seen the disruption, confusion and hardship it's causing Florida families, said Chris Hudson, AFPs Florida director, on Tuesday. Congressman Garcia may claim he is working on behalf of Floridians to get them relief from the law, but the truth is he's done nothing to get rid of Obamacare, even a year after the disastrous roll-out."
Also on Tuesday, conservative group American Action Network (AAN) announced it would spend $1 million against Garcia.
South Florida families deserve better than another scandal-plagued politician like Joe Garcia who wont take responsibility for the criminal actions of his own chief of staff, said Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for AAN. Its time Joe Garcia answers for the crimes under his watch and his record of boosting Obamacare at the expense of South Florida families.
But Garcia struck back with two TV ads of his own released on Tuesday. In the new ads, Garcia focuses more on Tallahassee than Washington, trying to link Curbelo with Gov. Rick Scott.
"My grandmother's courage to stand up to Castro and protect her family taught me to do what's right, no matter what, Garcia says in one of the ads. So when Washington politicians threatened to cut Medicare I worked with both parties and protected those benefits. It's disappointing Carlos Curbelo rubber stamps Rick Scott's tea party agenda. Curbelo supports ending the Medicare guarantee and backs Rick Scott's massive cuts to our schools. I'm Joe Garcia and I approve this message because I support South Florida, not political agendas."
In an ad geared toward the Keys, Garcia plays up a similar theme.
"As a kid, I cut grass in neighborhoods just like this to save money to go to college, Garcia says in the ad. Opportunity and hard work: that is how the Keys thrive. So when high flood insurance costs hurt our homeowners I passed a law capping those rates to help job growth. Carlos Curbelo backs Rick Scott's tea party policies, hurting our progress. Curbelo would remove the limits on flood insurance rates, letting costs skyrocket. I'm Joe Garcia and I approved this message to keep the Keys moving forward."
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