Op-Ed

Send Shalala, Mucarsel-Powell, Wasserman Schultz and Diaz-Balart to Congress

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For a complete list of the Miami Herald recommendations for the Nov. 6 general election, click here.

DISTRICT 23

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. She has been boldly representing District 23 ever since.

Today, she remains one of the most successful South Florida politicians – and she has bounced back from a rough patch in her political career related to her stint as the Democratic National Committee chairwoman during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. That all seems behind her.

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Wasserman Schultz

This election cycle, she is being challenged for the third time by Republican Joseph Kaufman, a counter-terrorism expert who lives in Broward.

Also in the race: Tim Canova and Don Endriss, both running as No Party Affiliation candidates. The Editorial Board did not endorse Kaufman in the August primary, which he won in a three-way Republican race.

While Wasserman Schultz is well-known for supporting liberal causes, Kaufman is the opposite. He supports President Trump’s aggressive, and regressive, policies and more — a hard sell in Democrat-centric District 23, which takes up most of Broward and stretches down the coast from Dania Beach into Miami Beach.

Canova, a law professor, is going up against her for the second time. In 2016, riding on Bernie Sanders’ wave of support, Canova appeared to pose a real threat to Wassermann Schultz, but lost at the ballot box, proof of her popularity with her constituency.

Wasserman Schultz, who came to her candidate interview wearing patriotic nail color, says these are dangerous times. Why reelection? “It’s a critical time to uphold the Founding Fathers’ intent.’’ She says climate change and sea-level rise are “a reality for Florida;” she supports $15 minimum wage, gun control and environmental protections for the Everglades; she wants to protect Social Security, Medicare and much of the Affordable Care Act.

With her record and seniority, coupled with lackluster opponents, Wasserman Schultz remains the best choice.

The Herald recommends DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ to continue representing Congressional DISTRICT 23.

DISTRICT 25

Once part of a powerful Republican Cuban-American congressional triad, Mario Diaz-Balart is the only one left, with the retirement of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this year and his brother Lincoln’s departure in 2011.

As he completes his eighth term, Diaz-Balart is facing a vigorous challenge from Democrat Mary Barzee Flores — incoming political firepower he has not experienced to represent District 25, which includes parts of southern Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Hendry counties.

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Diaz-Balart

The impressive and prepared Barzee Flores is an attorney in private practice who served as a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge. Then in 2015, President Barack Obama nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, but her nomination was blocked by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for contributions she made to liberal groups. Her nomination expired without being voted on by the full Senate. Barzee Flores is now challenging a political friend of Rubio’s. Small world.

The candidates jostle over healthcare, immigration, and gun control, but Diaz-Balart is well-known for his ability to work across the aisle: “I listen. I’m not hyper-partisan and I get things done,” qualities the Editorial Board has often praised him for during his political career. He favors a path to citizenship for DREAMers and extending Temporary Protection Status to Haitians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans — and would add Venezuelans to the list.

Diaz-Balart’s clout in Congress equals federal money for South Florida. He’s currently a senior member on the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. Diaz-Balart detailed for the Editorial Board the millions he’s sent home to help the homeless, public education, for hurricane relief. He’s also chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and is the great congressional hope to help fund Miami-Dade’s SMART Plan. In short, he brings home the bacon. South Florida has benefits from such financial muscle. The Herald recommends MARIO DIAZ-BALART for Congress, District 25.

DISTRICT 26

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the incumbent in this race, has been as authentic as he can for the good of his constituents. But at a time when the Affordable Care Act remains on Republicans’ hit list, immigration reform is on life support and income inequality plagues this community, Curbelo’s efforts have not been good enough.

He is a moderate Republican whom some say should go ahead and be a Democrat. He tried to take the lead on immigration reform, attempting to force a vote. This only put him in the doghouse with Republican Party leadership, House Speaker Paul Ryan, in particular.

We have praised him for his creation of a bipartisan climate-change task force.

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Mucarsel-Powell

But as he works to distance himself from President Trump, he has voted with the president, and policies that stand to do damage to his constituents, more than 80 percent of the time.

As well-intended as he has been during his two terms in Congress, we think that his opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is the realer deal for District 26 and will advocate for its residents’ everyday interests.

Chief among Curbelo’s votes was to ditch the Affordable Care Act, imperfect legislation to be sure, but on which 1.7 million people in Florida rely.

He says that it was flawed, but put patients at the center. We’d rather see a sincere attempt to fix the Affordable Care Act. Instead, it’s being sabotaged as navigators who helped people enroll have been defunded, among other harmful moves.

Yes, this is a disagreeable vote that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart made, too. However, he continues to use his longevity and powerful position in Congress to South Florida’s great advantage. After two terms in Congress, Curbelo hasn’t developed that heft yet. And though we applaud his bipartisan approach, ultimately, it has not been as effective, especially in the toxic atmosphere in Congress, obstructionist during President Obama’s two terms, and now positively corrosive with President Trump in the Oval Office.

On issues of gun control, Curbelo has made nuanced, some would say inconsistent, votes. But, to his credit, after last year’s shooting in Las Vegas in which 58 died, Curbelo introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, riling the NRA.

Mucarsel-Powell offers a strong, consistent voice for a progressive push for humane and common-sense policies — and pushback against more harmful ones.

With almost 100,000 Obamacare enrollees in District 26, Mucarsel-Powell seeks to build upon her experience as associate dean at Florida International University College of Medicine.

There, she helped create public-private partnerships to provide access to healthcare to residents in underserved neighborhoods. She understands that the healthcare program should be improved, not repealed.

She supports universal background checks for gun buyers, closing the gun-show loophole and a ban on assault-style automatic weapons. She says real tax reform will help middle-class and working families, increasingly under pressure in District 26.

Though immigration has been a singular issue for Curbelo, he ultimately voted for a bill that would have cut pathways to legal immigration, even as it created a path to citizenship for about 2 million DREAMers, young adults brought to the United States as children by their parents. Mucarsel-Powell advocates a “clean” DREAM Act and protecting TPS.

We think she is more in touch with District 26’s needs. The Herald recommends DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL for Congress, District 26.

DISTRICT 27

Donna Shalala is a problem solver, resolute, focused and effective. These qualities will be vital in Congress, especially if the Democratic candidate vying to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remains in the minority party.

We’re betting that Shalala will be able to cut through the partisan crap that has kept Congress hostile, stymied and ineffective in tackling the big issues that touch every Americans’ life. Among the challenges: providing affordable healthcare, plowing a way forward on immigration and gun reform; easing traffic nightmares; battling climate change and sea-level rise; creating better-paying jobs.

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Shalala

Shalala’s professional experience is both broad and deep: In 1980 she became president of Hunter College in New York City; In 1988, she became chancellor of the University of Wisconson. At both institutions, she grew enrollment among women and minority students; She was secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services from 1993-2001, and helped where she worked to revise the financial structure of the U.S. healthcare system. Most important for District 27 voters, Shalala was president of the University of Miami in from 2001-2015. She transformed the school into an academic force, raising $3 billion.

Shalala would be a newcomer to elected office, but no novice when it comes to public service. Her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar, is a well-known television journalist on Spanish-language television. She is professionally accomplished, having competently covered the community’s problems, but is less clear on how to solve them as a member of Congress. Attorney Mayra Joli is running as a No Party Affiliation candidate:

Here’s where Shalala and Salazar stand on important issues:

Healthcare

Shalala would make “technical corrections” to the Affordable Care Act, not scrap it; bring the subsidies in line with real healthcare needs so that people don’t have to choose between “food and health;” negotiate with drug companies to lower prices; protect Medicare and fix its weaknesses, including its failure to cover long-term care and home healthcare.

Salazar says that Obamacare does not work and that, “The forces of capitalism should invade the system.”

Both candidates would preserve coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Gun control

Shalala was part of the team that developed the assault weapon ban that became law in 1994. She says it’s still needed, as is a ban on bump stocks. She’d work to create a national database, implement a strong review process and close the gun show loophole that allows anyone to buy just about anything at gun shows and through private transactions.

Salazar would also ban assault weapons and close the loophole. She supports universal background checks and early intervention measures to prevent young, troubled people from picking up a weapon.

Jobs

Shalala says the Republican Congress should have implemented huge infrastructure projects across the country, instead of approving tax breaks. She also cites the business incubator at UM as a way to spur innovation.

Salazar says that we needs more trade schools. “We need more diesel mechanics,” she says. “Not everyone needs to go to college.”

We think there’s a big difference between problem-solving and problem awareness. The Herald recommends DONNA SHALALA for Congress, District 27.

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