In case any voter in Florida’s 26th Congressional District thought candidate Ed MacDougall was of Cuban descent, one of his latest campaign advertisements should clear things up.
The flier features photos of MacDougall’s four original Republican primary rivals, with a sentence or two about each one. What all the blurbs have in common: Each includes the word “Cuban.”
“Carlos Curbelo is the son of Cuban exiles.”
“David Rivera is an advocate for the Cuban Embargo . . .”
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“Joe Martinez championed the creation of the Cuban Memorial . . .”
“Lorenzo Palomares wants to be a strong voice for tightening restrictions on our dealings with the Cuban Government.”
The other side of the flier shows MacDougall and lists four policy positions — “The MacDougall Plan” — without making any other mention of Cuba or U.S. policy toward the island.
MacDougall, who is the mayor of Cutler Bay, said the “Cuban” references merely repeat what each of his current or former opponents — Rivera has suspended his campaign — has played up on the campaign trail.
“Virtually everything I hear is that,” MacDougall said. “My feeling is that it is not about Cuba. It’s about America.”
The district extends from Kendall — home not only to voters of Cuban descent, but also to Central and South American ones — to Key West, where the electorate is far less Hispanic.
“Just like the [political] left, he is attempting to use the politics of race and ethnicity for personal gain,” Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, said in an email. “I doubt our community will respond favorably to this, but he is certainly leaving an ugly legacy for his children and grandchildren.”
The issues in the campaign haven't been Cuba-centric, he added.
“My campaign is focused on building a greater nation for my generation and for my daughters' generation — not on any single issue,” he said.
Martinez said that while he's proud of his Cuban descent — and of sponsoring the Cuban memorial noted in the flier —he thinks his other work as a former county commissioner is equally important.
“I’m very proud of the many accomplishments that I did,” he said, listing reforming the board that runs Jackson hospital and piloting a health-insurance program known as Miami-Dade Blue.
Palomares-Starbuck, an attorney who was born a U.S. citizen in Cuba because his mother was an American diplomat there, said MacDougall has noted before that he’s the only non-Hispanic candidate in the race.
“I don’t want to make this thing an ethnic race in any shape or form,” Palomares-Starbuck said. “He’s got to run the way he sees fit. If wants to pull the race card, he can pull the race card.”
MacDougall, who is of Scottish-Irish descent, said his grandchildren are Hispanic and his family has Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican members.
“We are one as a community,” he said. But, he added, “I suppose it does get a little old when your opponents stand up and talk about Cuba. I want to hear about America. Not Venezuela, or Mexico, or anywhere else.”
Though he didn’t mention it in the flier, MacDougall says he wants to end the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allows Cuban migrants who touch U.S. soil to remain legally in the country. He also supports restricting travel to the island for newly arrived Cubans purportedly fleeing the Castro regime.
The candidates are running in the Aug. 26 primary to challenge Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia — who is also Cuban-American.