Democrat looking to unseat Curbelo puts gun control at the center of her campaign

"These people deserve better."

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell meets with constituents while canvassing in Homestead, Florida (Credit: Rebekah Entralgo/ThinkProgress)
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell meets with constituents while canvassing in Homestead, Florida (Credit: Rebekah Entralgo/ThinkProgress)

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA — It is one day before the Florida primary, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is spending the afternoon knocking on doors, encouraging every Democratic voter she can find in the state’s 26th Congressional District to show up to the polls.

“I love doing this,” Mucarsel-Powell told ThinkProgress on a blistering Monday afternoon. “I could do this all day long.”

Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean at Florida International University, will likely win her primary Tuesday night, and she is laser-focused on unseating Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) in the general election.

FL-26 is one of the most closely-watched races this election cycle and Curbelo is one of the few Republicans up for re-election in a district won by Hillary Clinton. In FL-26, Clinton’s margin of victory was nearly 20 points.


Mucarsel-Powell’s messaging aims to underscore Curbelo’s hypocrisy. On issues from immigration to taxes, Curbelo publicly markets himself as a champion of bipartisanship, but he has voted with President Trump more than 80 percent of the time.

There is no issue for which this rings more true than gun control —  especially in Homestead, where Mucarsel-Powell knocked on nearly 50 doors Monday afternoon. At nearly every home she visited, voters cited gun control as a top priority.

“Gun control should be the first issue on this little flyer of yours,” Homestead resident Lee Brown told Mucarsel-Powell while standing in her front yard. “We need help in this neighborhood. Look at all the kids that get shot down here. It’s worse than Miami, and no one talks about it.”

“I know, and I understand,” Mucarsel-Powell replied empathetically. “You need change.”

Mucarsel-Powell knows firsthand about the tragic effects of gun violence. She lost her father to an armed criminal in Ecuador when she was 24, an experience that profoundly informed her stance on gun control. She takes a strict position on the issue, supporting universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.


Curbelo has similarly come out in support of universal background checks, but in Congress, he voted twice against legislation to keep guns out of the hands of those determined to be mentally impaired. And the National Rifle Association (NRA) has donated thousands of dollars to Curbelo over the course of his political career. His NRA rating is a middling C — a grade that leaves much to be desired for fervent gun control activists.

In the latest sign of his tepid commitment to stemming gun violence, Curbelo’s office has yet to put out a statement on Florida’s most recent mass shooting. That deadly tragedy occurred on Sunday, when  a gunman opened fired at a competitive Madden online game tournament in Jacksonville, killing two people and injuring several others.

“It’s unbelievable, he only speaks out when it’s convenient,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “These people deserve better.”