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

8/2/2017

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”

8/1/17

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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