You have to go all the way down to the bottom of the United States to find the Florida 26th Congressional District. When you get there, you will encounter one of the hottest House races in the country for the 2018 election cycle.
Incumbent Carlos Curbelo (R) is in a tough fight in what would ordinarily be a Democratic district. It is not, by the way, a Democratic district now, as Curbelo has found a way to win twice here. Is he heading for the hat trick or will the third time be the charm for Democrats?
2018 Florida 26th Congressional District Race: Our Rating
Florida-26 is rated as a Republican hold (weak lean) as of October 20, 2018.
We have a US House Elections 2018 page, where you can see our ratings for all 435 seats this year.
Florida 26th Congressional District Profile
The 26th District of Florida is the southernmost Congressional seat in the continental United States. At its north, it takes in much of Everglades National Park, leaving Carlos Curbelo with more alligators than humans as constituents. As it heads towards the Atlantic, however, it takes in some of Miami’s suburbs including Tamiami, Kendall Lakes and Homestead.
You can follow this district all the way down Route 1 and ride through the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Islamorada to Key West.
Florida-26th has almost 70 percent of its residents being Hispanic by ethnicity. Only 17 percent of those living here are white non-Hispanic.
Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voter Index (PVI) rates this as a D+6 seat, making it six points more Democratic than the national average. At D+6, this is the most Democratic-leaning seat held by the GOP as of 2018. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won in Florida-26 by double-digits in their respective runs.
2018 Florida 26th Congressional District Candidates
Republican: Carlos Curbelo. Curbelo was first elected to the US House in the 2014 midterm elections, unseating a first-term Democratic representative (Joe Garcia). He was re-elected by a 53-41 percent margin in 2016 in a rematch with Garcia, despite Donald Trump losing the district by 16 points. Before Congress, he was a member of the Miami-Dade County school board and the founder of Capitol Gains. Curbelo is a double graduate of the University of Miami. Today, he serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Democratic: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Mucarsel-Powell, a first-generation Ecuadorian-American, was a Democratic candidate for the Florida State Senate in 2016, and she is making her first run for Congress in 2018. She has been involved with such non-profit organizations as the Coral Restoration Foundation and Hope Center. Mucarsel-Powell was also at Florida International University as part of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. She received her Master’s Degree from Claremont University.
2018 Florida 26th Congressional District Democratic Primary Results
In a two-way race, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell won the Democratic nomination in decisive fashion over Demetries Grimes. The final count saw her take over 63 percent.
The Lowdown on the 2018 Florida 26th Congressional District Race
As noted above, there is no more Democratic district in the United States that currently has a Republican representing it. And yet, somehow, in this Democratic year, we still have Curbelo slightly favored to be re-elected. Why is that?
Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American whose family fled from Cuba during the Castro regime, happens to represent a district that is over two-thirds Hispanic. No county comes close to Miami-Dade in the United States in terms of Cuban-American population. Curbelo, for obvious reasons, has close ties to this community.
Further, he has compiled a moderate voting record in Congress. The American Conservative Union, the organization of the right that organizes the “CPAC” conference, judges Curbelo as having just barely attained a 30 percent conservative voting record. (Link: American Conservative Union) A solid conservative is not going to win in a district that Hillary Clinton carried with ease, but Curbelo is not one.
He has put himself in a position to succeed in this Democratic-leaning district, but by no means is he out of the woods. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is doing better than Curbelo in terms of fundraising. (Link: Miami Herald) One would think she also has a natural advantage of being a Democrat in a district that otherwise is blue.
There is plenty of reason at this point to think that Curbelo is ahead by a nose. In the two most recent public surveys, he had leads of a point or two. (Link: Ballotpedia) Then again, Mucarsel-Powell had leads in the two September polls before it. This is anyone’s race, but for the Republicans to hold it would be a boost to their big picture. As of publication, Electionarium projects the Democrats to win a majority, but only by a handful of seats. This House election is not signed, signed, or delivered for the Democrats, and if push comes to shove, they might need this seat. If they fail to retake the House because they could not flip a Cook D+6 seat, it will leave a mark.