Carlos Curbelo, a 34-year old Miami-Dade School Board member, decisively won the FL26 Republican primary election last Tuesday and is now directly challenging incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia.

Curbelo, with the endorsement of former Gov. Jeb Bush, current House reps like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and state GOP leaders, took 47% of the vote in the highly diverse 26th district, which includes all of the Florida Keys, Homestead, and southwest Miami-Dade. Coming in second was Cutler Bay mayor and Vietnam veteran Douglas MacDougall with 25% of the vote. MacDougall actually took the majority vote in Monroe County (the Florida Keys), but Curbelo came out on top with strong support in Miami-Dade where there are more voters.

Perhaps Curbelo’s most notable backer was Mitt Romney, who made appearances in Miami at campaign rallies and fundraisers for Curbelo.

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Back in June I covered this race with the prediction that Curbelo would win. Readers can consult that article for more information on the backgrounds of Curbelo and Garcia, who notably made a bizarre statement in a Google Hangout that could be interpreted as an endorsement of communism. (Garcia later claimed it was a joke.)

Garcia also had the embarrassing earwax picking incident:

Considered the Establishment favorite, Curbelo does not particularly strike one as an innovative, contrarian, or “new-breed” type of conservative Republican. However, FL26 is a tossup district that the GOP is trying diligently to flip and Curbelo, as recently proven by voters, is the strongest candidate to challenge Joe Garcia.

While Garcia has enough baggage to fill an ocean liner, Curbelo has one brewing problem that could explode if his campaign doesn’t attend to it soon. Curbelo has been accused by the Garcia campaign as well as by his GOP rivals in the primary of awarding school district contracts to his campaign donors. The Curbelo campaign has steadfastly denied any link between campaign donations and awarded government contracts.

Right now, both campaigns are squarely set in the slugfest mode, and for a district as key and competitive as FL26 it will most certainly remain that way until November.

(Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald.)