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Carlos Curbelo Loses District 26 In Tightly Contested House Race

Kate Stein
Carlos Curbelo delivers a concession speech at his watch party in Kendall.

In one of Florida’s most tightly contested U.S. House races, incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo (District 26) was defeated by Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

In his concession speech, the outgoing congressman condemned political violence and called for bipartisanship.

“This country needs to heal,” he said. “If we don’t start respecting and appreciating each other again, even when we disagree, then it’s not going to matter who wins elections in the future.”

Mucarsel-Powell, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador as a young girl, will represent a predominantly Latino district that contains all of Monroe County and portions of south Miami-Dade.

Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants, was first elected as a representative in 2014, after a stint on the Miami-Dade County School Board. He’s known as a moderate Republican, and his loss has been seen as a referendum on the Republican Party by voters upset with President Trump.

On the environment, Curbelo took a stand on climate change at a time when few Republicans have been willing to acknowledge it even exists. Along with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (District 22), Curbelo co-founded the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus; he also introduced a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions that analysts say could gain traction among tax reform-minded Republicans who are under increased pressure to address the climate threat.

On health care, Curbelo voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act but says he wants to keep what he considers “good” in the law: protections for those with preexisting conditions and the ability for young people to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they can afford their own insurance.

On gun control, Curbelo was one of 10 Florida lawmakers -- and the state’s only Republican -- to receive an endorsement from the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. He has said a ban on assault-style weapons should be “on the table” and introduced a bill to ban bump stocks following the mass shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in October 2017.

On the economy and taxes, Curbelo has touted the rewritten tax code enacted by Congress and President Trump in December -- a code Curbelo helped create as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. The revised tax code decreases the corporate tax rate by 14 percent and temporarily reduces the tax rates for individual taxpayers.

Curbelo pushed for federal dollars to help his constituents recover from Hurricane Irma after the storm devastated parts of the Florida Keys. He supports sanctioning China for trade practices he calls “unfair,” but says the U.S. must be cautious in imposing any punishments, to avoid damage to small businesses and Florida’s fishing industry, which has been hit hard by retaliatory tariffs.