New York Times: “Gun Marches Keep Republicans on Defense in Midterm Races”

The passionate gun control rallies Saturday that brought out large crowds around the country sent a vivid signal that the issue is likely to play a major role in the 2018 midterm elections, and that Republicans could find themselves largely on the defensive on gun issues for the first time in decades.

The gun debate could play out very differently in House and Senate races, as Republicans strain to save suburban congressional districts where gun control is popular, and Democrats defend Senate seats in red states where the Second Amendment is sacrosanct.

But, in a year of extraordinary political intensity, and in the first national election of the Trump presidency, Republican and Democratic leaders say the gun issue appears to have become a potent rallying point for voters opposed to Mr. Trump and fed up with what they see as Washington’s indifference to mass shootings. The scale of demonstrations over the weekend was reminiscent of the Women’s March, earlier in Mr. Trump’s presidency, and underscored the intense energy of activists on the left ahead of the fall campaign.

The commitment of the young march organizers to keep the issue front and center makes it unlikely to fade before November. But they are certain to face considerable resistance from pro-gun forces, particularly the National Rifle Association, which has formidable financial resources at its disposal and a long record of successfully mobilizing conservatives and helping win elections.

Still, Republicans have already been struggling to keep their footing in densely populated suburbs where Mr. Trump is unpopular and the N.R.A. is an object of widespread scorn. The gun issue appears likely to deepen Republicans’ problems in these areas, further cleaving moderate, pocketbook-minded suburban voters from the party’s more hard-line rural base and raising the risks for Republicans in swing House districts around the country.

Gun control may be a complicated issue for Democrats, too, because of the makeup of the Senate races on the ballot in November. If Democrats have a path to capturing the House through mainly moderate, well-educated districts, they are also defending Senate seats in strongly conservative states, like West Virginia and North Dakota, and in Republican-leaning states like Missouri and Indiana, where pro-gun positions have long been safe political terrain.

But several prominent Republicans warned on Sunday that the party could end up alienating groups that tend to vote for candidates to the right of center if they are seen as unresponsive to the rising outcry around guns. In an atmosphere of frustration with Washington, inaction on guns could add to voters’ anger at entrenched lawmakers there.

Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, warned in a CNN interview on Sunday that voters “do want changes” on gun policy and Republicans were ignoring them at their peril.

“People should absolutely be held accountable at the ballot box,” said Mr. Kasich, a critic of Mr. Trump who is contemplating a run for president in 2020.

It is not only the Republican Party’s dwindling moderate wing that sees danger in the gun issue. Dan Eberhart, an energy executive and major conservative donor, said Republicans risked driving away suburban voters if they did not do more to defy the N.R.A.

Mr. Eberhart pointed to Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican with an A-plus N.R.A. rating for supporting the organization’s agenda. Mr. Scott, who is contemplating a bid for the Senate seat held by the Democrat Bill Nelson, signed incremental new gun regulations after last month’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., over the N.R.A.’s objections.

“Republicans are going to have to move a little to get 51 percent-plus in elections, and the N.R.A. will have to deal with it,” Mr. Eberhart said. “The N.R.A. is really out of step with suburban G.O.P. voters.”

While Democrats have little hope the demonstrations will lead quickly to legislation, they predict the broad-based outpouring of protest will increase pressure on Republicans. Addressing reporters on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader and Democrat of New York, said even Republicans in the “stranglehold” of the N.R.A. must be “smelling the change in the air.”

“This wasn’t Democrats only,” Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said of the protests. “This was people just sick and tired of a ruling party that refuses to take action on something so morally urgent.”

Public opinion polls show powerful support for a range of gun measures, with overwhelming support for stricter background checks for gun purchasers and a smaller majority favoring an outright ban on assault-style weapons. A Fox News poll conducted last week found that three in five voters supported a ban on military-style weapons, while about nine in 10 supported universal background checks.

But the same poll found scant optimism among voters that Congress would act in accordance with their preferences: Only about a fifth of voters thought it was highly likely Congress would act.

The doubters are probably correct: There is relatively little time left on the congressional calendar this year, and the Republicans who control the House and Senate have shown no great appetite for tackling gun control. The $1.3 trillion spending bill that Mr. Trump signed on Friday included modest school safety measures and improvements to the background-checks system, but it did not include a number of more ambitious and popular measures, like raising the age requirement for purchasers of assault weapons.

And while the Justice Department announced last week that it would try to follow through on a promise to ban so-called bump stocks through regulation, Mr. Trump has not indicated that he intends to take any further executive action to address the issue.

Against a backdrop of plodding debate in Washington, a number of Democratic candidates in important races have already made prominent appeals to voters on the issue of gun violence, combining support for new gun restrictions with rhetorical denunciations of the N.R.A.

Several of the Democrats campaigning most assertively on firearm regulation are also competing in areas recently afflicted by gun massacres. In Nevada, Steve Sisolak, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, vowed in his first television commercial to “take on the N.R.A.” A member of the Clark County Commission, which includes Las Vegas, Mr. Sisolak was among the most visible officials responding to the mass shooting in October, which left 58 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democratic congressional candidate in South Florida, in a district not far from Parkland, said voters were fired up because of their horror at mass shootings and their outrage at congressional inaction.

“This is a symbol of everything that is wrong right now, that is happening in Washington, D.C.,” said Ms. Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican.

Ms. Mucarsel-Powell, who marched against gun violence in Key West on Saturday, has aired commercials describing her personal experience with gun violence: When she was 24, her father was shot and killed in Ecuador.

Other Democrats have been more timid on gun issues, particularly in more rural and heavily white, working-class districts where broad gun rights are more popular. When Democrats won an upset victory in a Pennsylvania special election this month, in a heavily conservative congressional district outside Pittsburgh, they did so by nominating a distinctly moderate candidate, Conor Lamb, who favored improving the background checks system but did not back other popular gun restrictions.

Val DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said that while Democrats won that special election, the race had shown “the passion of Second Amendment supporters.” But Mr. DiGiorgio said voters were also seeking remedies for gun violence.

“It’s clear that Americans on all sides of the debate are looking for solutions,” Mr. DiGiorgio said.

But the energy in the Democratic base is with those who favor gun restrictions.

While the colorful signs and pleading speeches of the students drew attention on Saturday, state and local Democratic parties across the country also used the marches to register voters and sign up volunteers.

In Florida, volunteers circulated at protests in over 30 cities, passing out “commit to vote” cards that the party can later use for voter turnout purposes. And in Virginia, Democrats descended on the cities where buses were departing to the Washington march to register voters.

The efforts were not confined to large liberal and swing states. In Columbia, S.C., the local Democratic Party used the march in the state’s capital to sign up voters for what could be a competitive governor’s race this fall. The liberal group Indivisible also used the protests to kick off a campaign pressuring members of Congress during the legislative recess.

Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster, said the marches illustrated the enormous energy of the Democratic base and revealed generational changes in the electorate that Republicans will have to grapple with.

“As we have seen in special elections, Democratic enthusiasm is already very high and the gun issue just adds to that,” Mr. Hobart said, noting that students in his hometown Atlanta had traveled by bus for 10 hours to join the march in Washington. “These same students are much more likely to not just vote, but volunteer.”

Read the original article here.

New York Times: “After the March, Follow This Gun Reform Battle Plan”

It has been 38 days since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.; 174 days since the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas; 1,011 days since the killings at a church in Charleston, S.C.; and 1,926 since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ten days ago, students organized a nationwide school walkout to demonstrate their outrage about these and other shootings.

On Saturday they plan to amass in Washington to pressure a Congress that has done nothing meaningful to protect American children in classrooms, movie theaters, churches, malls — because, thanks to the National Rifle Association, many of their elected representatives are too busy protecting their re-election.

My advice to the students? When you finish marching on the mall, march into the specific congressional districts where you can actually make a difference.

The midterm elections are in eight months. A vast majority of congressional districts have been gerrymandered bright blue or ruby red. In those deep-red districts, the only threat that far-right members of Congress face is a primary challenge from someone farther to the right. You may regard voting for universal background checks as a no-brainer, but they see it as a blemish on their N.R.A. rating — an open door to a primary challenge. That explains the unmovable fealty these representatives have to the gun lobby.

But in this election there are more than 40 truly competitive districts, including many where you can make a real difference by helping replace an incumbent who consistently supports the gun lobby with a challenger who won’t.

Go to the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Representative Ryan Costello (who has an A rating from the N.R.A.) is being challenged by several Democrats, including Chrissy Houlahan, a former Air Force captain who supports closing the loophole on sales at gun shows and renewing the federal assault weapons ban, among other steps. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s redrawing of the state’s district lines has transformed Mr. Costello’s already competitive district from one that was almost evenly split between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to one that supported Mrs. Clinton by 9 points.

March to the southern tip of Florida, not to vacation in flip-flops but to flip a district. There, Representative Carlos Curbelo (who has a B+ rating from the N.R.A. and an “N.R.A. lap dog” label from the Brady Campaign) is also being challenged by several Democrats, including Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, whose father was shot to death when she was 24.

Ms. Mucarsel-Powell supports banning the sale of military-style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shootings and would strengthen background checks so that domestic abusers, those affected by mental illness and terrorists can’t purchase guns. This district historically swings between Republicans and Democrats. You can push it the right way.

Too hot in Florida? Try the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, specifically the Second and Third Congressional Districts. Mr. Trump was virtually even with Mrs. Clinton in the Second and lost to her in the Third. Representative Jason Lewis supported concealed-carry reciprocity, and opposed universal background checks and any ban on semiautomatic weapons. His neighbor, Representative Erik Paulsen, shares the same position on concealed-carry reciprocity and universal background checks. Both have A ratings from the N.R.A.; both have opponents supporting sensible gun security laws.

You can canvass in the shadows of the Catskills in New York, in the suburbs of Denver and in Fairfax, Va. You can phone-bank in the competitive districts in Orange County, Calif., as well as the northern San Joaquin Valley, northern San Diego and eastern Los Angeles County. Ask your peers to show up at campaign events and town halls in the exurbs of Chicago and in Iowa.

If you live in a heavily Democratic district in a place like New York State, your member of Congress is already with you. Send a note of thanks and support that incumbent. The possibility of change is beyond the horizon, literally, in that morphing of suburbs, exurbs and rural areas, in that convergence of districts with incumbents whose support for the gun lobby is virulent, but who, in the November election, are vulnerable.

You don’t have to win every district. Replacing just a handful of incumbents in districts that are highly competitive while also offering a vivid contrast in positions on guns could bring the larger change you need and deserve.

Why? Because there’s nothing on Capitol Hill more clarifying than watching colleagues pay the ultimate political price for their positions. Seeing a colleague defeated because of a hard-core position tends to soften the resistance of those who survive.

March not left, nor right, but right up the middle, into those moderate competitive districts where high school students, people at the coffee shops and diners, and soccer moms and dads shake their heads at the intransigence of a member of Congress who won’t support enhanced background checks, “No Fly, No Buy” and other reforms.

You can stage marches and school walkouts, but then walk into the swing congressional districts that matter. In the end it’s not about standing up to be heard. It’s about changing who sits in Congress.

Read the original article here.

CNN: “Dem candidate recounts her history with gun violence in new ad to air during gun control march”

(CNN) — A Democratic congressional candidate in South Florida is releasing a new advertisement recounting the loss of her father to gun violence that will run during the March for Our Lives, a nationwide demonstration this weekend to demand an end to gun violence.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, whose father was shot and killed in Ecuador by an armed criminal, is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in one of the country’s most competitive districts. The district sits just to the south of Parkland, Florida, where a shooter killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. The shooting led a group of student survivors to call on Congress to pass stricter gun laws.

“October 18. To most it’s just another day, but to me, it isn’t. It’s the day my father was shot and killed by a criminal with a gun. And because of that senseless act of violence, my family’s life was never the same,” Mucarsel-Powell says in the ad.

“In Congress, I won’t rest until there’s real change that keeps our families, our neighborhoods, and our schools safe. I owe that to everyone who has lost someone to gun violence,” she adds.

The ad puts gun control front and center as an issue in a district Democrats view as a potential pick up in November. Mucarsel-Powell has previously criticized Curbelo for what she has characterized as talking tough on guns in the district but voting another way in Washington. Curbelo has said that he supports strengthening the background check system but also supports the Second Amendment.

CNN has rated the race a toss-up.

The $12,000 combined TV and digital ad buy will air over three days on cable networks leading up to the March for Our Lives and on Saturday, the day of the march. The march is being led by a group of students who survived the shooting in Parkland.

In a phone interview with CNN, Mucarsel-Powell said she has been inspired by the student organizers.

“As I’ve been watching these students, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg and others, speaking up, organizing, marching, I also decided that it’s not right to let these kids do all of this on their own,” Mucarsel-Powell told CNN. “I don’t think that their voices will go away. I am completely committed to walking with them, speaking with them and standing alongside with them.”

You can view the ad here:

Read the original article here.

Diario Las Americas: “Debbie Mucarsel-Powell: ‘No podemos dejar que NRA controle la conversación'”

3/20/18

MIAMI.- Hay tres temas que para Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, la precandidata demócrata a la Cámara federal por el distrito 26 de la Florida, son un asunto demasiado personal: las armas, el acoso sexual y el hostigamiento a los inmigrantes.

Al hablar de cada uno de ellos tiene que hacer una pausa porque la invade la emoción. Se le aguan los ojos y respira profundo para seguir con su relato.

Cuando sucedió la masacre en la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas, en Parkland, condado de Broward, volvió a su memoria el momento en que perdió a su padre, quien fuera asesinado en Ecuador, país donde ella nació. Mucarsel-Powell, en el momento de la tragedia, tenía 24 años.

“Estoy enfocada en hacer lo que pueda para llevar el tema del control de armas al centro del Partido Demócrata en Washington. No podemos dejar que la NRA (Asociación Nacional del Rifle) controle la conversación”, precisó la precandidata, quien ha recibido el apoyo del comité demócrata de campañas al Congreso, en especial del programa “Red to Blue”, es decir, consideran que ella puede representar una seria competencia para el republicano Carlos Curbelo –quien busca la reelección en ese distrito– y por lo tanto pondrán todos los recursos económicos y publicitarios en esa campaña.

Las mujeres víctimas de violación, abuso o acoso sexual en el mundo de la política, el periodismo y la industria del espectáculo iniciaron un movimiento llamado #MeToo. “A la mayoría de las mujeres nos ha pasado algo similar. A mí también me sucedió”. Hace un silencio profundo, quiere llorar, pero sigue: “Son conversaciones difíciles, quieres proteger a tus hijas y que nunca les suceda a ellas”.

Muy cercanos a su familia hay “dreamers”, esos jóvenes indocumentados que tuvieron un alivio migratorio llamado DACA, pero que ahora está en suspenso. “Tenemos que ser sinceros. Desde que estuvo en campaña, Trump atacó a los inmigrantes. Dijo que los mexicanos eran violadores, criminales, entonces empezó quitándoles el TPS [estatus de proteccion temporal] a los salvadoreños, atacó a los haitianos. Como inmigrante tomo eso muy personal”.

—¿Quién es Debbie Mucarsel-Powell?

Soy una mujer que viene de una familia de mujeres muy fuertes. Vine a Estados Unidos con mi madre cuando yo era muy joven. Mi mamá trabajaba cuidando ancianos en sus casas, salía a las siete de la mañana y llegaba a las 11 de la noche. Los fines de semana iba a la escuela a aprender inglés. Yo comencé a trabajar a los 15 años para ayudarla. Pude obtener una beca para ir a la universidad, trabajé durante el pregado y saqué una maestría en economía política internacional. Sé que he llegado donde estoy ahora por el trabajo de mi madre, por la educación que pude tener. Perdí a mi padre y eso me hizo tener más pasión en trabajar en la justicia social. Por eso enfoqué mi carrera en organizaciones sin ánimno de lucro, en ayudar a las familias que no han tenido esas oportunidades que yo tuve. Estoy casada con un hombre increíble. No podría hacer lo que hago en este momento sin el apoyo de él.

—¿Qué puede hacer su partido para lograr una victoria, como la que obtuvo con Annette Taddeo en el ámbito estatal?

Creo que hubo problemas con la persona [Joe García] que estuvo en contra de Curbelo. El candidato demócrata no contó con todos los recursos para poder pelear, pero también tuvo un historial en su otra campaña que lo afectó mucho y lo pudieron atacar. No sé si los demócratas aprendieron, pero es algo en lo que me estoy enfocando: asegurarme de que tenemos un movimiento de base, que venga de la comunidad.

—¿Cree que si llega a Washington habrá un ambiente muy distinto en las relaciones de trabajo entre hombres y mujeres, por el movimiento #MeToo?

Está cambiando un poco la dinámica. Hemos llegado a un sitio donde las mujeres tenemos más oportunidades, especialmente en este país. Pero para poder tener un impacto, debemos estar representadas. En este momento las mujeres son apenas el 18% de la totalidad de los congresistas. La dinámica cambiará cuando tengamos representación igualitaria. Por eso es muy importante en este momento postularme para la Cámara.

—¿Es más difícil para las mujeres hispanas ese tema del acoso sexual en el trabajo?

Ciento por ciento. Creo que las latinas hemos sido vistas desde siempre como mujeres fuertes, pero hemos estado en casa cuidando a la familia. Es mucho más difícil tener el respeto para las mujeres que están en la industria del entretenimiento o en la política. Es mucho más difícil lograr el respeto ahí. Debemos llegar en un momento a un equilibrio del poder, que haya una igualdad en la representación en todas las industrias. ¿Por qué nos pagan menos? Cuando tengamos las mismas oportunidades que los hombres no será tan fácil cruzar el límite sexual.

—¿En lo personal, qué lecciones le dejó la derrota de Hillary Clinton y frente a su trabajo en el distrito 26?

En mi distrito, las personas no se sentían muy conectadas con Hillary pero ella ganó por 16 puntos. Sí hubo errores en la campaña. Es importante estar presente en la comunidad. Golpear puertas. Nunca voy poder tocarlas todas, pero espero que los votantes vean que estoy ahí, con ellos, con mi corazón.

—En un ambiente polarizado como el actual, ¿cuál cree que podría ser el argumento para disuadir a los republicanos a que voten por una demócrata y no por su contendiente, el representante Carlos Curbelo?

Habrá personas a las que nunca voy a convencer de que voten por mí. Pero espero que los votantes sin afiliación política me conozcan un poco y entiendan lo que he hecho en mi trabajo. Y entiendan que lo estoy haciendo por las razones adecuadas.

—El Partido Republicano no cree en el calentamiento global. No se ha tomado en serio ese fenómeno, por lo menos desde el ámbito estatal y federal. ¿Cómo ve ese tema?

Mientras tengamos un Gobierno controlado por los republicanos no va a pasar nada con el tema del cambio climático. Curbelo dice lo que le conviene cuando está en su distrito, pero ha votado en Washington para que no nos ayuden a manejar el tema del incremento del nivel del mar. La reforma tributaria incluyó la exploración petrolera en Alaska. Sabíamos muy bien que esa ley tributaria abriría las puertas de las perforaciones en las dos costas. Nosotros somos el epicentro del calentamiento global, vendrá otra tormenta como Irma. La única manera para lidiar con esos temas es tener demócratas en el Senado y Cámara.

—¿Cuál sería el secreto del éxito en su distrito para que una demócrata reemplace a Curbelo?

Información, para que las familias entiendan muy bien quién es Curbelo. Hay que hablar con hechos, entender que tienen un representante en este momento que votó para quitarles los servicios de salud e incrementar los impuestos a las familias de clase media. Tienen que entender quién soy yo, que he sido parte de esta comunidad a lo largo de estos últimos 20 años, trabajando para encontrar soluciones en áreas de educación y servicios de salud.

—¿Cree que el Partido Demócrata pueda ser mayoría en la Cámara federal?

Estoy segura de que en noviembre vamos a ser mayoría en la Cámara. Y espero que en el Senado. Es muy importante ganar mi distrito para poder tener la mayoría. La mayoría de personas registradas son demócratas.

—Pero hace dos años había el mismo panorama. Además, Curbelo se presenta como un político moderado.

Esa es la percepción que él trata de proyectar. Pero no creo que sea moderado su esfuerzo de quitarles los servicios médicos a más de 100.000 personas en mi distrito. Ha hecho un muy buen trabajo en la percepción de mostrarse como una persona moderada, pero cuando uno ve la manera como vota, no es moderado para nada. Hay que detener esa agenda republicana que genera tantas divisiones y discrimina.

Lee el artículo original aquí.

Bustle: “3 Women Running For Office In Florida Reveal What’s Driving Them After Parkland”

3/7/18

When Gwen Graham saw the 17 white crosses outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School memorializing the students and teachers killed in a mass shooting there on Valentine’s Day, she started sobbing. The former congresswoman is in a crowded race to replace Florida’s term-limited Republican governor, Rick Scott, and seeing those crosses lined up outside the Parkland, Florida high school inspired her vow to ban military-style assault weapons on her first day in the governor’s mansion if she’s elected.

“I want that executive order drafted, ready to go, so that as soon as I’m sworn into office as governor, I can sign it banning assault weapons,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate tells Bustle. “That’s the action we need. That’s the action we have to have.”

Outrage over Florida’s loose gun laws surged after reports that the 19-year-old Stoneman Douglas gunman legally bought the AR-15-style rifle he used to take 17 lives at the high school. As teenage survivors of the shooting lead the charge in calling for meaningful gun reform both in Florida and nationwide, women running for office in the Sunshine State are amplifying those survivors’ voices and strengthening their own gun control platforms in the wake of the tragedy. If the current momentum behind gun reform keeps up, the issue could be a deciding factor in Florida’s November elections.

“I am very much optimistic that somehow this time is going to be different, that the voices of these young adults are resonating here locally and also nationally,” says Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democratic candidate running for Congress in Florida’s 26th district.

For Mucarsel-Powell, gun violence was a personal nightmare long before the Parkland shooting. She lost her dad to gun violence when she was 24. Although he was killed in Ecuador, she understands the pain of losing someone to a bullet. “That trauma of losing a loved one to gun violence stays with you, and it comes back every time you hear of these shootings,” she tells Bustle.

She also has three children, and says her 9-year-old daughter is worried about what to do if someone opens fire in her South Florida school. Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge running as a Democrat in Florida’s 27th congressional district, also views gun violence through a mother’s lens. Two days after Parkland, there was a shooting threat at her 17-year-old son’s high school, located 40 miles south of Stoneman Douglas. It turned out to be a false alarm, but the frequency of school shootings across the U.S. in recent years had Flores rattled.

In the first nine weeks of 2018, there were 12 school shootings that resulted in at least one person besides the shooter being shot. Four of those took place after Parkland. The longer the United States goes without gun reform, Flores and Mucarsel-Powell believe, the more American children are at risk of dying in a classroom.

“It’s just horrifying to think that my daughter can’t legally buy a beer until she’s 21, but [the Parkland shooter] could go and buy a gun and he’s not 21,” Flores tells Bustle. “And not just any gun, but an assault rifle.”

Federal law states that you must be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer, but only 18 to purchase from an unlicensed dealer. By contrast, you must be 18 to buy a rifle from a licensed dealer, and there’s no federal minimum age to buy a rifle from an unlicensed seller. In Florida, it’s easier to buy an assault-style rifle than a handgun; the state has a mandatory, three-day waiting period for anyone seeking to buy a handgun, while there’s no such waiting period for AR-15-style rifles like the one used at Stoneman Douglas.

“These automatic weapons that can fire off multiple rounds very, very quickly, they are being used to hunt our children. They’re being used to mow down people in public places and in our schools,” Graham says. “They’re not useful for any other purpose other than a military purpose.”

Flores, Mucarsel-Powell, and Graham all support a complete ban on military-style assault rifles for civilians nationwide. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) proposed a ban on assault weapons last month, but it’s unlikely to pass while Republicans control both houses of Congress. The Florida legislature also rejected a similar ban days ago.

Graham isn’t optimistic an assault weapons ban in Florida will become a reality without a governor who’s willing to champion the idea, which is why she promises to take immediate action through an executive order if elected. “I don’t think the Florida legislature has the political will or the courage to stand up to … the NRA,” she says.

Flores and Mucarsel-Powell would also likely face backlash from the gun lobby if elected to Congress. The NRA has a tight grip on Capitol Hill, as the pro-gun group has made more than $11 million in direct contributions to federal candidates over the past 20 years, ABC News reports. If Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate in 2018, fighting for gun control in Congress will remain an uphill battle for the Florida women. They’re ready to take on the fight, though. Flores is even considering making a lapel pin of a red “F” to show off the F rating she plans to receive from the NRA once in Washington.

Beyond her goal of banning assault weapons, Flores’ career as a Florida circuit court judge helped shape her belief that the loophole allowing Americans to buy guns from unlicensed dealers without a background check needs to be closed. She heard a lot of gun violence cases in her almost 9 years on the bench, and says that most defendants she saw didn’t get their guns from licensed dealers. She also believes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives needs to keep computerized records of all gun sales across the country, including those bought at gun shows and from private sellers.

All three of these Florida natives also understand that roughly one-third of Floridians own guns, and they want to make it clear that they don’t have a problem with law-abiding citizens keeping a firearm at home. As Graham put it, protecting the 2nd Amendment and enacting common sense gun laws are not mutually exclusive.

“I understand people who want to hunt and fish with their family, and I have no problem with that. But there’s no reason for anybody to have military-style weapons of mass destruction,” Flores says. “I’m not anti-gun; I’m anti-murder.”

Florida Politics: “National pro-choice group backs Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Lauren Baer for Congress”

3/7/18

NARAL Pro-Choice America announced Wednesday they are endorsing Florida Democrats Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Lauren Baer for Congress.

Mucarsel-Powell is considered the leading Democrat facing Republican Carlos Curbelo in ultra-competitive South Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Baer is running against Republican Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, which runs along the Treasure Coast.

Both incumbents are anti-abortion.

“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Lauren Baer’s dedication to expanding access to reproductive health care is exactly what we need in Congress right now,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “We know they will stand up to the attacks the Trump administration and the GOP Congress make on affordable and accessible health care for all. They’ll fight for the values women and families in their districts hold dear, and that’s why we can’t wait to get them elected.”

“Now more than ever, we need women in Washington who will bring our voices and protect our rights,” said Mucarsel-Powell. “As a Latina immigrant, I come from a long line of strong women, and I am proud to have the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America. In Congress, I will work to defend our reproductive freedom, fight gender discrimination, and pass paid maternity and paternity leave.”

“As a woman, a mother, and a proud defender of reproductive freedom, I am honored to have the support of NARAL Pro-Choice America,” said Baer. “Choosing to bring our daughter into the world was one of the most personal and important decisions my wife and I have made, and the act of carrying her, and now caring for her, has only reaffirmed my belief that reproductive choices are best left to women themselves.

“I look forward to working with NARAL to uphold our fundamental reproductive rights.”

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabado‘s “Crystal Ball” currently lists CD 26 as a toss-up, and CD 18 is “likely Republican” in the fall.

Politico: “Curbelo on defense over gun-control double-talk”

2/28/18

MIAMI — In the wake of this month’s Florida school shooting, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) renewed his calls for a better background-check system to keep firearms away from the mentally ill, but said nothing of his two votes opposing restrictions on gun purchases by some people deemed unfit by the federal government.

The Miami Republican said that his two votes — concerning some veterans and Social Security recipients — sought to protect constitutional rights, and he pointed to a slew of gun-control legislation he has either co-sponsored, drafted or talked up, including an assault weapons ban, which has gained traction after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Curbelo’s shifting and nuanced positions on guns has drawn the same criticism from completely opposite quarters: the National Rifle Association and his top Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Both describe Curbelo as an opportunist, with Mucarsel-Powell saying he votes like a right-wing Republican in Washington while campaigning like a moderate in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, a swing seat. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won it by 16.3 percentage points — her biggest margin in the nation in a seat held by a Republican running for reelection.

“This is a common theme for Congressman Curbelo: tough talk in Florida, but party-line votes, standing with special interests in Washington,” Mucarsel-Powell said.

Though both of Curbelo’s votes were supported by the NRA, the legislation concerning Social Security, was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and a host of disability groups. They opposed the Obama-era regulation because it targeted as many as 80,000 people who weren’t necessarily adjudicated mentally infirm. Instead, anyone who used a representative, due to a mental impairment, to receive Social Security disability or supplemental income benefits would have had their names sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Curbelo said that wasn’t fair to seniors and the disabled.

“While the Congressman strongly supports strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and has co-sponsored legislation to do so, he also believes in the Second Amendment,” said Curbelo’s spokeswoman, Joanna Rodriguez.

“Advocating to deny our seniors their constitutional right is an insult to those who have already contributed so much to our nation,” she said. “The Association of Mature American Citizens said it best, the vote was a ‘welcome reprieve to seniors who have had their Second Amendment rights subverted by an Administration and agency with significant influence over their retirement income.’”

The legislation, passed in February 2017, was the only gun bill this Congress has OK’d. The joint resolution was signed by President Donald Trump before the regulation went into effect.

About a month later, Curbelo voted for legislation that sought to overturn a law signed by former President George W. Bush in 2007 after the Virginia Tech mass shooting that required the Department of Veterans Affairs to submit names of “mentally defective” veterans to the background check system. Since then, the VA reports, about 174,000 veterans names have been added to the list for various mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Curbelo said he objects to the way the VA determined who made the list and who didn’t.

“The VA was not making determinations on whether a beneficiary presented a danger to themselves or others, solely whether they needed assistance managing their finances,” his spokeswoman said. “Just because a veteran needs assistance managing their finances does not mean they should be denied one of the Constitutional rights they swore and sacrificed to defend.”

A group of former generals all opposed the legislation, though, leading Mucarsel-Powell to question if the legislation really helped vets.

“Curbelo had the chance to follow the guidance of multiple retired generals who called for Congress to strengthen our background check system, but instead, he voted with the gun lobby and Republican leadership,” she said.

The controversial legislation, which sparked a tense back-and-forth on the House floor between Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings and Florida Republican Brian J. Mast, stalled in the Senate.

Months later, on Oct. 1, 2017, a mass shooter killed 59 people and shot 422 more in Las Vegas. Curbelo and others responded by proposing a ban on “bump-fire” kits that help make a semiautomatic rifle fire like a machine gun. He then voted against a concealed weapons bill in December because it didn’t include language on bump stocks.

After the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Curbelo joined with Democrats and outlined a list of gun safety priorities and has signed on to Democratic Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s legislation to allow the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence as a mental health issue.

“We have to take a holistic approach to the gun violence issue, and guns aren’t the only problem, they’re just one of the elements of this challenge that we’re facing in our society,” Curbelo told Fox last week. “We do have to invest more in mental health, we have to strengthen the NICS, the background check system, so that those who do have mental health disorders are accurately reported to the NICS and can’t get access to these types of weapons.”

It’s that statement about “strengthening” background checks that, Mucarsel-Powell says, conflicts with his votes.

Since then, Curbelo has followed Mast’s call to ban “military-style firearms” for civilians.

For the NRA, which has contributed $7,450 to Curbelo since he first ran in 2014, that was the final betrayal.

“Carlos Curbelo is a political opportunist who repeatedly communicated his support for the Second Amendment as well as his specific opposition to gun bans and ammunition bans to the National Rifle Association,” spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said. “It’s generous to call him a flip-flopper when it’s pretty clear he lied to our members and can’t be trusted.”

Asked for reaction to the NRA’s statement, Curbelo said he was supporting “common-sense solutions that keep firearms and certain accessories out of the hands of violent, unstable individuals.”

“As the son of Cuban immigrants who watched a communist government seize all firearms from the public to leave their opposition defenseless against tyranny, Carlos has the utmost respect for the Second Amendment and is committed to protecting that right for all law-abiding Americans,” he said.

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CNN: “Democrats take gun control demands to suburban House races”

2/23/18

Washington (CNN)Amid the continued national outrage over the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, some House Democratic challengers, particularly those in suburban districts, are eying a push for stricter gun laws as an issue they believe can help them retake the majority in November.

The politics of advocating for gun control are complicated for Democrats this year: The party is defending Senate seats in 10 states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 — with incumbents in states like Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Indiana who have shown no appetite for the issue.

And in rural House districts with more Second Amendment voters, Democrats also must tread carefully. Ahead of a March 13 special election in a deep-red House district in western Pennsylvania, for example, the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, has opposed any new restrictions on gun rights.

But that isn’t stopping candidates in the more ideologically diverse suburban districts from seizing on the student-led push for stricter gun laws.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, whose father was shot and killed in Ecuador when she was 24, is challenging Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in one of the nation’s most competitive House districts in South Florida. She’s vowing to press the Democratic Party to put the issue front and center.

“I have a feeling that it is a different moment,” Mucarsel-Powell told CNN.

She added, “There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of frustration. And every time I’ve seen the shootings, time and time again, they shook me to the core — and they bring that pain that I maybe never fully dealt with. It’s a very painful issue.”

Some Democrats — including Dave Min, running against California Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, and Kim Schrier, opposing Dino Rossi for an open seat in Washington state, have called on their opponents to return National Rifle Association donations. In New Jersey, Democrat Linda Weber urged Republican Rep. Leonard Lance to disavow the NRA.

Brent Welder, a Democrat running in eastern Kansas, has attacked his opponent, Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, for having the backing of the NRA, calling the group “merely a front for the gun lobby.”

And in a new digital advertisement Thursday, Democrat Jason Crow, an Army Ranger and Afghanistan and Iraq veteran running in Colorado, hit Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, saying all Coffman does is “tweet about his thoughts and prayers” but does nothing “because of the money that he takes and the people that he’s loyal to.”

He continues in the ad: “When my 4-year-old daughter comes home from school and tells us about the bad guy drills that she has and how she had to hide in a dark closet to be quiet in case the bad guys ever came to their school — I’ve had enough of this.”

Coffman’s campaign manager, Tyler Sandberg, responded to the ad by calling Crow “another wannabe politician who takes the occasion of a national tragedy to cut a campaign commercial” and noted Coffman is open to banning automatic gun sales to anyone under 21 as well as “red flag” measures allowing guns to be taken away from anyone deemed a threat to themselves and others.

A major player in the Democratic gun control push is former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords sent an email to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ massive list this week and is endorsing Democratic House candidates.

The message: Stand up to the gun lobby and oust lawmakers who have bent to its will.

“They look at the most benign and practical solutions offered by moderates from each party, and then they look over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby and choose to do nothing,” she wrote. “This November, we are going to vote them out. But it will only happen if we stand together.”

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Florida Politics: “Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says fighting for gun control is personal for her”

2/19/18

On Sunday, Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo called on GOP congressional leaders to introduce gun control measures for consideration by the House and Senate.

“What we need is congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate,” Curbelo said on ABC’s This Week. He was referring to proposals to expand background checks for purchasing guns, prevent people on the “No Fly” list from having instant access to weapons, and ban “bump stocks” which allow semi-automatic firearms to mimic automatic ones.

Curbelo was one of a handful of congressional Republicans who appeared on national television over the weekend to lend support to some form of gun control following last week’s mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, one of several Democrats running for the nomination to oppose Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, slammed the Miami Republican’s response and his previous support for the NRA. And she said that the death of her father from a firearm is why she is so committed to passing gun control measures if she can get to Washington.

“It is clear to me that Carlos Curbelo doesn’t understand what it’s like to be touched by gun violence,” she said in a statement released Sunday. “I’ve lived the reality of what gun violence does to a family; because of a criminal with a gun, my father didn’t have the chance to walk me down the aisle when I married my husband, or meet my wonderful children. There is no question that my experience shapes the way I understand gun violence in our community. It is insulting that Congressman Curbelo continues to offer lip service while accepting big campaign donations from the gun lobby.”

Shortly after the news broke about the killings in Parkland, Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian native, issued a series of tweets where she mentioned how her father was shot and killed by a criminal with a gun in Ecuador.

Mucarsel-Powell says she supports a handful of specific bills to reduce gun violence, like banning the sale of military-style weapons like the AR-15 used by the shooter in Wednesday’s incident. She also says she wants to close a background check loophole which allows private sellers without a federal license to sell guns, and she would strengthen background checks so that domestic abusers, those affected by mental illness and terrorists don’t have access to purchasing a gun.

“These are firm actions that are immediately needed and would be more effective in ending gun violence,” she says. “If I am lucky enough to serve, have no doubt that you can count on me to fight for these three initiatives and not take a dime from gun manufacturers, the NRA, or any entity that makes money while our children pay with their lives.”

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Florida Politics: “Debbie Mucarsel-Powell adds nearly $240K during Q4 for CD 26 bid”

1/29/18

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, raised nearly $240,000 during the final months of 2017. All told, Murcasel-Powell has raised more than $417,000 since entering the contest in August.

“I am extremely grateful for the ongoing support we’ve received from the 26th district and across Florida,” said Mucarsel-Powell.

The challenger’s numbers are impressive, but still pale next to Curbelo’s robust fundraising efforts as he gears up for what is expected to be an intense campaign. Curbelo has yet to announce his fundraising efforts for the fourth quarter, but his last financial report in October showed that he had more than $1.3 million cash in hand.

CD 26 is the most Democratic-leaing district in the country represented by a Republican running for re-election in 2018. It is one of just 23 House seats nationwide — and one of two in Florida — to go for Hillary Clinton for president while also sending a Republican to Congress. In 2016, Clinton won the district by 16 points while Curbelo beat former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia by twelve points.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has named Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean of fundraising at Florida International University and a consultant for non-profits, as one of 18 Democrats that it is focusing on in its “Red to Blue” program. The program highlights candidates in competitive districts who have shown an ability to raise money and build a viable campaign operation.

In a statement, Mucarsel-Powell linked Curbelo’s voting record over the past year with President Donald Trump.

“Over the last 10 months, as Congressman Carlos Curbelo voted to rip away healthcare from millions of Americans, helped write the Republican tax bill that will raise middle class taxes while handing cuts to his corporate donors, and voted with Donald Trump more than 83% of the time, we’ve been traveling the district talking to Floridians about what matters to them and their families. I’m focused on bringing down healthcare costs while expanding access and making economic growth work for families like ours in South Florida. While I’m building grassroots momentum, Congressman Curbelo is working to hide from his Republican voting record. With our large coalition of supporters, we are poised to take back this seat for the people of Florida in November.”

CD 26 encompasses southwest Miami-Dade County and Key West.

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