Cook Political Report now favors Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26 as new dueling ads drop

Powell gimenez
Mucarsel-Powell is gaining an edge in what's expected to be a close contest.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is now the favorite in the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, according to new ratings changes from Cook Political Report.

Mucarsel-Powell is defending her seat against Republican Carlos Giménez, who currently serves as Miami-Dade County Mayor.

Cook Political Report had previously rated the race as a toss-up. Wednesday morning, the outlet shifted its rating in the race to “lean Democratic.”

Analysts have varying predictions about Mucarsel-Powell’s strength in her reelection bid. Larry Sabato still sees the race as a “toss-up.” While Cook now has the race leaning in Mucarsel-Powell’s favor, FiveThirtyEight is even more confident about her chances. They see the seat as “likely Democratic” and give Mucarsel-Powell a 79% chance of winning as of this posting. None of the three forecasters have Giménez as the favorite.

Cook’s newest shift in the race comes as two new ads are being released in the race. Mucarsel-Powell is releasing an ad hammering Republicans for blocking additional COVID-19 relief. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is also out with a Spanish-language spot arguing Mucarsel-Powell has cozied up to the “extreme left.”

Mucarsel-Powell’s ad begins with news clips describing job losses triggered by the pandemic before the narrator poses a question to viewers.

“As we face real economic challenges, who will help us rebuild? Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Democrats — who fought for loans to help South Florida small businesses survive and unemployment assistance for us — or Carlos Giménez and Republicans — who cut $400 million worth of funding, 1,000 jobs and opposed increased unemployment benefits? This choice is clear.”

The claims about the $400 million cuts and the 1,000 jobs lost appear to be aimed squarely at Giménez. But those allegations stem from his time as a County Commissioner a decade-plus ago regarding a vote on the county budget.

Mucarsel-Powell and her allies have consistently used TV ads to contrast her opponent’s actions, such as cutting funding or agreeing to raise his own pay, with Mucarsel-Powell’s work on COVID-19 relief. Those ads have repeatedly implied a timeline where the Mayor is implementing those actions amid the pandemic. In reality, the funding cuts predate the pandemic by several years and are entirely unrelated.

Republicans in Congress have opposed a federally-backed increase in state unemployment benefits. GOP congressional members argued a previous federal funding surge served as a disincentive for out-of-work Americans to return to their jobs.

“Here in South Florida, families and small businesses are facing real economic challenges,” Mucarsel-Powell added in a statement alongside the ad.

“When the pandemic hit, I immediately got to work in Congress to pass loans for small businesses and ensure an economic lifeline for our families. Meanwhile, Carlos Giménez has failed every step of the way, leaving people unemployed and our families fearing eviction while our tourism industry and economy have cratered. We need a leader who will fight for our families in Congress, not a self-serving politician like Carlos Giménez.”

The NRCC’s Spanish-language ad runs repeated attempts to tie the Congresswoman to a Ukrainian businessman accused of multiple crimes. That man, Ihor Kolomoisky, owned businesses that employed Mucarsel-Powell’s husband, Robert Powell. A 2010 court order said it appears Powell “answers” to Kolomoisky, though Powell has said that was never the case.

The ad also brings up conservative boogeyman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, citing analysis showing Mucarsel-Powell and Ocasio-Cortez vote together 93% of the time. That’s largely because both belong to the same party.

The ad uses that number to accuse Mucarsel-Powell of agreeing with the “socialist agenda.” Though the NRCC appears to imply the two are in lockstep, the data they cite actually shows the opposite.

A Florida Politics analysis of Mucarsel-Powell’s vote similarity with all of her Democratic House colleagues shows an average of 97% vote similarity. Mucarsel-Powell’s 93% similarity with Ocasio-Cortez is actually below that average and among the lowest of any individual Democrat in the House.

Finally, the ad accuses Mucarsel-Powell of refusing to vote for a motion condemning the socialist Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

That vote came on a motion as part of a bill supporting Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans. It sought to add a line stating the bill stemmed from “the economic, humanitarian, security and refugee crisis that is a direct result of years of socialist policies implemented by the regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.”

Mucarsel-Powell and House Democrats did back the overall bill, however. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked the legislation. Mucarsel-Powell in the past has said Maduro is “a narco-dictator and he’s been violating human rights.”

The NRCC’s influx adds to a large pile of outside money pouring into the race on both sides. Mucarsel-Powell won the seat in 2018, defeating Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo by 2 percentage points.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].

One comment

  • Ocean Joe

    October 21, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Mama mia, that’s a spicy meatball for Carlos! Listen, you’ve actually done a good job for Miami, but we don’t need no stinkin climate deniers representing the district. We’re going to have to raise roads because of the sea level rise. We’ll need somebody in congress to help us with that, not rush to Doral to be Trump’s doormat. He says it’s a hoax, and clinging to his overcoat you say the same.

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