Florida Politics: “Carlos Curbelo in serious trouble, new CD 26 polling shows”


Carlos Curbelo has serious trouble in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, roughly a year out from the general election.

A Public Policy Polling survey of registered voters taken last week shows the Republican incumbent with an approval rating of only 37 percent; 46 percent disapprove of the job he is doing.

Three Democrats have filed to face Curbelo — Debbie Mucarsel Powell, Steven Machat and Steve Smith — with much of the Democratic establishment lining up behind Murcarsel Powell.

According to the poll, a hypothetical “Democratic opponent” leads Curbelo 53 to 39 percent.

As for tax reform, to the extent that people know what’s in the bill being negotiated by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump, a slight majority (52 percent) indicated that they would be less likely to support Curbelo if he voted for the plan.

In CD 26, Trump’s numbers are even worse. The president gets the same anemic 37 percent support as Curbelo, with 59 percent disapproving his performance.

Curbelo has been a prime target for House Democrats for months now, and that was before the president’s numbers started fading in recent months. He also has a considerable war chest — over $1.3 million — to win the seat that he originally captured in 2016 by defeating Joe Garcia by 12 points.

Located in far South Florida, CD 26 contains all of Monroe County (Key West) as well as part of southwest Miami-Dade County.

PPP, a North Carolina-based Democratic polling firm, surveyed 522 voters in the CD 26 through automated telephone interviews on Nov. 8-9. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent.


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Florida Politics: “Lois Frankel endorses Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for Congress”


Lois Frankel is backing Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in her bid to knock off GOP incumbent Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District in 2018.

“Debbie is a leader in her community, working to expand health care access to underserved communities and provide scholarships for first-generation college students,” said the Palm Beach County Democratic congresswoman in a statement. “She understands firsthand the challenges that our communities and our country face and has the know-how to be a part of the solution. I am proud to stand with Debbie in her campaign and look forward to serving with her in Congress.”

Murcarsel-Powell announced her candidacy for the seat in August, becoming the first Democrat to get into the CD 26 race that already had been selected by national Democrats as one of the most targeted seats in the nation to flip.

That’s because the district leans Democratic, despite the moderate Curbelo defeating then-Democratic incumbent Joe Garcia by 12 percentage points.

In her first two months on the trail, she raised $177,048.

Curbelo has more than $1.3 million cash-on-hand, as of the end of September.

“It is an honor to receive the support and endorsement of numerous leaders in our community who have instilled in us the ability to believe that together we can achieve great things,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “I am committed to live by those ideals and promise to provide FL-26 with a representative who will bring progress and opportunities for all.”

This is the 46-year-old Mucarsel Powell’s second bid for political office. In 2016, she lost to Republican Anitere Flores in the Florida Senate District 39 race.

Steven Machat and Steve Smith are also running in the Democratic primary for the seat, but Mucarsel-Powell is becoming the establishment favorite. She’s being backed by Emily’s List, as well as state lawmakers Oscar Braynon, Lori Berman, Nick Duran and Annette Taddeo, as well as a host of local officials, including Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich.

Miami Herald: “Emily’s List formally backs Curbelo challenger”


Emily’s List, which promotes the candidacies of progressive women in politics, is formally getting behind Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s bid against Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The group announced its endorsement Thursday for the 2018 race in Florida’s swing 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West.

It did not come as a surprise: Mucarsel-Powell met with Emily’s List leaders in Washington before launching her candidacy in August. The group’s early backing signals that Democrats probably don’t expect another significant female candidate to get in the race.

“Too much is on the line to stay home next November, like protecting women’s health care and passing permanent DACA legislation,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program phased out by President Donald Trump. “Debbie is just the type of fighter Florida’s working families deserve representing their interests in Washington.”

Schriock called Curbelo an “extreme Republican who supports Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda.” Curbelo, it should be noted, has broken with Trump on a number of issues — and filed legislation to protected DACA beneficiaries.

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Florida Politics: “Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell launches intro video on internet for CD 26 run”


Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has launched an internet video to introduce herself in her new campaign for Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Mucarsel-Powell, of Miami, who last year ran unsuccessfully for the Florida Senate, seeks to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in a swing district.

Her video focuses on her background as an immigrant from Ecuador, how her family achieved the American Dream, and how she considers that achievement in jeopardy for anyone else.

“But now, with a dysfunctional government, where parties have become more important than the families they are supposed to serve, those opportunities which we all deserve are in real danger,” she states in the video. “While families struggle to make ends meet, Congress does nothing. While students struggle to find an education they can afford, Congress does nothing. And while all of us fight to provide health care for those we love, Congress does worse than nothing, they vote to make it harder and more expensive for us to get.”

“It’s time we put an end to this. It’s time we say, ‘no más,’” she concludes.

Last week after she announced her candidacy the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund immediately dismissed her with an email describing her as “a perennial candidate.”


Miami Herald: “Democrat bashes Curbelo on healthcare in campaign kickoff”


Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wants to make her congressional campaign against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo about healthcare.

In formally launching her candidacy Wednesday, Mucarsel-Powell slammed Curbelo’s vote to replace the Affordable Care Act — a message that national Democrats plan to repeat across the country to try to unseat Republicans in 2018.

“It is inconceivable to me that politicians in D.C. are committed to stripping away healthcare access to millions of Americans,” Mucarsel-Powell said in her speech outside of West Perrine health center, where the poor can see doctors and get medicine.

She briefly addressed a Miami Herald story Tuesday questioning whether she actually lived in the Florida Keys as she claimed to last year, when she unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat. She wouldn’t say Wednesday how long she lived in Islamorada, where she cast her November ballot.

“I have spent months back and forth in Monroe County,” said Mucarsel-Powell, a Pinecrest resident. When asked what percentage of the time she actually lived in the Keys, she said, “If I count the days, I’m not sure; I go back and forth.”

Instead, Mucarsel-Powell preferred to call out Curbelo, who in May voted for the American Health Care Act, the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare.

“People are extremely disappointed he says one thing here and goes and does another thing in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

A liberal group, Save My Care, has already produced an ad targeting Curbelo and others for supporting a plan that would have let insurance companies charge even more for people over 50.

Curbelo represents the swing 26th Congressional District, which has one of the highest rates in the nation of people who get their insurance through Obamacare: about 92,500 people.

Democrats consider him a top national target, in part because Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump in the district by 16 percentage points. Curbelo, however, defeated Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 points the same day. He’s lined up Democrats to start fundraising for him this month ahead of next year’s election.

Curbelo struggled with his vote for the unpopular AHCA, refusing to divulge his position in advance as he made up his mind.

After efforts to repeal Obamacare died in the Senate in July, Curbelo called on Congress to put aside partisan politics and find a solution. He’s part of a 43-member “problem solvers” caucus that on Monday released a bipartisan healthcare proposal.

The plan calls for creating a stability fund that states can use to reduce health insurance premiums, requiring that businesses with more than 500 employees provide health insurance — instead of the current 50 employees — repealing the medical-device tax and providing guidelines for states that want flexibility in the existing insurance exchanges.

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Florida Politics: “Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ready to take on Carlos Curbelo in CD 26”


In front of the West Perrine Health Center in Miami, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell officially announced her candidacy for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she hopes to take on Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo next year.

Although Curbelo is considered extremely vulnerable in the Democratic leaning district that stretches from Miami to Key West, Mucarsel-Powell is the first Democrat to officially file a challenge in CD 26 for 2018.

Last year, Mucarsel-Powell lost a bid for a state senate bid against Republican Anitere Flores.

“I immigrated to the United States as a young girl with my mother and three sisters — in search of opportunities to better our lives,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “My mother worked tirelessly as a home health care provider and attended school in the evenings and weekends to learn English. She instilled in me the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, your potential is endless in America. I lived those values — got a good education and built a successful twenty-year career working to improve the lives of underserved communities right here at home.”

Mucarsel-Powell blasted Curbelo for his vote in support of the GOP health care bill in the House.

“It’s shocking that Washington politicians, like the one who claims to represent this community, would vote to rip away health care access from our families,” she said. “That’s not what we want and it’s not what hardworking families like the one I grew up in need. We need to improve on what’s working and fix what’s broken in our health care system, not recklessly scrap the whole system and abandon people who need it the most.

Murcasel-Powell also said she’s seen first hand the negative effects of climate change.

“We must invest in green energy, reduce carbon emissions and invest in infrastructure that will protect South Florida from sea level rise. We cannot continue to elect politicians that say one thing here at home and do another in D.C. — the issues are too big; the stakes are too high.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been targeting Curbelo for months. Although Curbelo defeated Democrat Joe Garcia last November by 12 points, Hillary Clinton won CD 26 by 10 points over Donald Trump.

Miami Herald: “Curbelo draws Democratic challenger in swing Florida district”


Months after Democrats began calling him a top national target, Carlos Curbelo has drawn a serious 2018 challenger.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran a stronger-than-expected state Senate campaign in 2016, will run for Congress. She plans to hold a news conference announcing her candidacy Wednesday.

“It’s shocking that the people in Washington are trying to strip healthcare from millions of Americans,” Mucarsel-Powell told the Miami Herald in an interview Monday, taking a jab at Curbelo. “The person that I’m running against voted for Trumpcare.”

She claimed Curbelo “has voted more than 86 percent of the time with Trump,” but also insisted: “I don’t want to focus my entire energy on what’s happening with the president.”

The bilingual Mucarsel-Powell, 46, was born in Ecuador, where she lived until she was 14. That’s when she and her single mother and three sisters moved to southern California. Mucarsel-Powell followed a sister to South Florida in 1996.

Now married with a stepdaughter, a daughter and a son, Mucarsel-Powell lives in Pinecrest, which is outside the 26th congressional district, a stretch of Westchester to Key West. She rents property in the Florida Keys, she said. Curbelo lives about a mile from the district’s boundaries in West Kendall.

After years of working in various nonprofit organizations, at ZooMiami and for Florida International University, Mucarsel-Powell opened a consulting firm on strategic planning.

“I’ve spent my entire life in nonprofits trying to bring change, positive change,” she said. “People are really charged. They’re angry. They’re frustrated. They want change.”

For months, national Democrats have labeled Curbelo a top target, citing his district’s Democratic-leaning makeup. It favors Democrats by 6 percentage points, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, making Curbelo’s district the most Democratic in the country currently held by a Republican. Last year, Hillary Clinton bested Trump in the district by 16 points.

But Curbelo defeated Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 points, a 28-point swing showing Curbelo’s crossover appeal among Democrats and independents. He’s also a prolific fundraiser who had $1.1 million in his campaign account as of June 30 and consistently posts among the highest fundraising hauls of House members in both parties. Mucarsel-Powell said she expects to have to raise at least $4 million to compete.

Curbelo’s support in May for the American Health Care Act, House Republicans’ proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, was political manna for Democratic Party leaders, who see the vote as one of Curbelo’s biggest electoral weaknesses in a district where 92,500 people get health insurance through Obamacare — one of the highest rates in the country. Republicans have already vowed to spend millions of dollars defending Curbelo and other Republicans in competitive districts who backed the legislation.

But Curbelo is also a moderate who has tended to align himself with House GOP centrists, especially when it comes to climate change. Hoping for an anti-Trump wave in 2018, Democrats may try to tie Curbelo to the Republican president — but Curbelo was one of the loudest local Republican Trump critics in 2016. He has generally kept his distance from the White House, though he has applauded Trump’s harder line on Cuba and Venezuela.

Last year, Mucarsel-Powell challenged state Sen. Anitere Flores, a veteran Republican lawmaker who was running for the first time in redrawn Senate District 39, where she was unknown to many voters. Flores defeated Mucarsel-Powell by 54-46 percent, but the race forced Flores to raise $1.3 million, more than any other legislative candidate in the state. Senate District 39 overlaps with much of Congressional District 26.

Despite her loss, Mucarsel-Powell left a good impression with local Democratic operatives, who felt she ably argued for abortion rights, environmental protection and gun control, and against the increasing power of charter schools in Tallahassee. She called the race “eye-opening.”

Mucarsel-Powell came up as a possible congressional candidate when Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced in April that she will retire next year. That left vacant Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congressional District 27, where Clinton beat Trump by an even bigger margin than District 26. But Mucarsel-Powell said she wasn’t interested.

Last month, Mucarsel-Powell discussed her likely candidacy in private Washington meetings with Emily’s List, which promotes progressive women candidates; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic members of Congress, including Florida Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Stephanie Murphy.

Music producer Steven Machat, who ran as an independent in last year’s U.S. Senate election, is also challenging Curbelo as a Democrat. Machat garnered just over 26,000 votes statewide compared to Sen. Marco Rubio’s 4.8 million.

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