"Who is the most important politician in Miami? Fidel Castro."
That's an old joke I've heard many times down in Miami, but it rings very true in one of the most-watched midterm House elections this cycle. In Florida's 26th district, which encompasses southwest Miami-Dade county and the Florida Keys, Hispanics are the majority and Cubans the plurality. Both incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia and Republican Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade County School Board member, are sons of Cuban exiles.
Recently, Roll Call changed the district from a Toss-up to a Toss-up/Tilts Republican district. This is has been part of the long-term trend that has seen Curbelos steadily gaining ground against Garcia after starting significantly down in a Lean Democrat district to now edging out ahead of Garcia. Readers can read my previous articles detailing the candidates life stories, platforms, gaffes, and controversies here and here.
Oddly enough, though, the topic of U.S.-Cuban relations has only just seen its birth in this election. But now that the genie has been unleashed, it's become more than apparent how the election in FL26 is like no other in the country.
The topic of Cuba elicits the most impassioned responses and emotions from Cuban-Americans, and that's why it is tread so carefully. Contrary to, perhaps, "outsider" perceptions of Cuban-Americans, there is no monolithic Cuban-American view of what U.S.-Cuban relations should be. Roughly, it is divided between the older and younger generations in that the older Cubans--born on the island and usually having escaped with at least some memories of life under the Communist regime--are vehemently against any type of detente; they oppose increased travel and remittances, too. Younger generations--either born in this country or having come over after the 1990s--want to see eased relations, an end to the boycott, more travel, etc.
Down in Florida’s 26th district, Republican candidate Carlos Curbelo and incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia are waging fierce campaigns in one of the most competitive and important House races this year.
Objective polling data is scarce for this race. One commissioned by the Curbelo campaign found the Republican in the lead 44% to 40% with the remaining undecided. The margin of error was 4.9%. Another poll, this one commissioned by the Garcia campaign, found the Democrat in the lead 45% to 40% with the remaining undecided. This poll had a margin of error of 4.8%.
Clearly, polling data here is pretty uninformative, except that they show there is a sizeable group of undecided voters who will determine the election’s outcome. A Curbelo victory under these circumstances could have good or bad implications. Good, if it means Curbelo’s conservatism appealed to the undecided and Independent voters in this heavily Hispanic district, but bad if it means Curbelo has to pander in order to win those votes.
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.
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:
What do the Everglades, Key West, and Homestead, Florida have in common?
Nothing, except that they are all represented by freshman Democrat Joe Garcia in Florida’s newly created 26th congressional district.
While the primaries are not until Aug. 26, Republican Carlos Curbelo has all but secured the party nomination as the clear GOP front-runner to challenge Garcia in November. Curbelo currently serves on the Miami-Dade County School Board overseeing the nation’s fourth largest school district.
Curbelo carries a slew of important Florida Republican endorsements, including those from FL27 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, FL25 Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives Will Weatherford.
Curbelo has not had a lot of media exposure, so his positions on national issues are not as well defined to the public as those who have been on the national stage. He did say in a Fox Business interview that the economy is suffering due to “self-inflicted wounds” like the failed Obama stimulus and unreformed pensions.
Garcia has taken up clearly leftist ideology in almost all respects. He does not support the repeal of Obamacare (though he voted for its delays and caveats), wants to grant DREAMers in-state tuition, wants to continue government funding of alternative energy, and is the main sponsor of immigration reform bill H.R. 15, which is highly controversial and allegedly a lead up to outright amnesty.