Hope Davenport is a sophomore honors student studying political science and international studies at the University of Arkansas. Hope grew up in Farmington, Arkansas, and is an active member of the University of Arkansas chapter of Young Democrats of Arkansas as well as a first term senator in Associated Student Government. After graduating, Hope plans to pursue a graduate degree in conflict resolution.
Florida’s 26th Congressional House District, representing the Miami area in Southern Florida, is home to one of the tightest races this midterm cycle. The seat is currently held by moderate Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo despite Florida 26th voting blue by a 16-point margin in 2016. Although Curbelo appeared to be sailing toward a clear victory this summer, Democrat challenger Debbie Murcasel-Powell has caught up, to the point that FiveThirtyEight has marked the race as a “toss-up,” with Curbelo polling ahead by an average of only 1.1 points.
Carlos Curbelo is in his third term serving as congressman to Florida 26th and has been in the spotlight recently for his failed attempts to force House Republicans to expedite the process of finding a solution to the DACA immigration bill controversy. In a district with a 70% Hispanic population and as the son of Cuban immigrants himself, his lukewarm stance on immigration does not necessarily sit well with his constituents. However, Curbelo’s plan to place a ban on bump stocks has won him some support in the wake of Florida’s highly publicized Pulse nightclub and Parkland High School shootings. Arguably the most pressing issue in Florida 26th is climate change, with the district being located in the Everglade region. Flooding due to rising sea levels threatens to decimate the district, and while Curbelos has been commended for speaking out regarding this issue in Congress by restoration advocacy group Florida Bay Forever, the group’s endorsement ultimately went to his opponent.
Debbie Murcasel-Powell is an Ecuadorian immigrant and a first-time politician running on a far left pro-women’s rights, pro-environmental protection, and pro-gun control platform that falls in line with her district’s leanings. She is currently backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has recently come under fire for accepting a donation from Barbara Lee, a California lawmaker who has publicly praised Fidel Castro. This move has turned off many of the numerous Cuban-American residents of Florida 26th, and it could be detrimental to her campaign this close to the election.
This has raised a few doubts about newcomer Murcasel-Powell as to whether she is a viable alternative to Curbelo, who is both experienced and a vocal Trump critic. Curbelo has also fundraised nearly twice as much money as Murcasel-Powell in addition to having around twice as much cash on hand as her campaign. Murcasel-Powell’s best bet at securing the Florida 26th House seat is to get Democratic-leaning citizens to the polls, as this race will likely be decided by an extremely narrow margin.