Incumbent Carlos Curbelo is defending his seat against three challengers — one Republican, and two Democrats. All of the candidates live on the mainland, but District 26 also encompasses the Keys.

Questions

  1. Legal and illegal immigration is widely regarded as the most important topic this election season. If elected, what aspect of immigration would you address first — border security or path-to-citizenship efficiency?
  2. As of mid-June — nine months after Hurricane Irma — Monroe County and Keys municipalities have received less than $2 million of the estimated $165 million requested from FEMA. What do you believe is causing the delay and is it happening at the federal level or the state level?
  3. Plans for the “Southern Reservoir,” or EAA Reservoir, have received approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget, to help restore water quality south of Lake Okeechobee. How would you explain the issue to other lawmakers and how would you persuade them to vote in favor of this expensive project?

* Incumbent
Editor’s note: Candidates’ answers appear as submitted.

Carlos Curbelo*, Republican

Incumbent Carlos Curbelo was elected to represent the Keys in the U.S. House in 2015. He has a master’s in public administration from the University of Miami and founded a media and public relations firm. He lives in Kendall. He formerly served on the Miami-Dade County School Board.

  • Top three issues: climate change, immigration, infrastructure.
  • Campaign website: carloscurbelo.com
  1. For too long, Congress has avoided making tough decisions to modernize our immigration system. I’ve worked tirelessly to provide a permanent solution for young people brought to this country by no fault of their own, while also making funds available to protect the integrity of our borders. This summer, I was proud to lead the effort in the House to debate — for the first time in over 20 years — a serious comprehensive immigration bill. I won’t stop working until we have a bipartisan solution that makes Americans more secure while honoring our tradition of welcoming immigrants who want to contribute.

 

  1. While FEMA must guarantee the integrity of reimbursements, they have to do better, considering Congress has designated billions to help communities recover. At the federal level, bureaucracy moves slowly, which is why I’m glad my team effectively cuts through red tape on constituents’ behalf when they contact us about delays or obstacles in their dealings with agencies. I’m also grateful we passed the Disaster Relief Reform Act to provide critical reforms to more efficiently run federal programs. At the state level, Florida should take another look at advanced reimbursement rules to see if that could alleviate some of the delays.

 

  1. Protecting water quality and Everglades restoration are not just South Florida priorities, they’re national priorities. Billions of dollars from the local, state and national economy are at risk if we don’t address these challenges before it’s too late. Leaving this issue unresolved results in a larger environmental debt to future generations. The Florida delegation has built strong bipartisan support for the Everglades and South Florida environmental projects in the past and I will continue to promote robust funding from Congress.

Souraya Faas, Republican

Fluent in three languages (English, Arabic and Spanish), Souraya Faas has a myriad of degrees including a masters in political science and sociology. The South Florida resident is a public school teacher, and parishioner at Good Shepherd Catholic Church. This is her first bid for office.

  • Top three issues: National security/immigration reform, education/school security, and healthcare.
  • Campaign website: Souraya Faas on Facebook
  1. The United States has gone from being the land of opportunity to a land where it is a free for all and those who arrive illegally seem to have more rights and advantages then the hard-working American citizens who were born here.

I for one hand refuse to use the word “undocumented” because anyone who enters the country without permission and/or enters with visa and overstays their visit is automatically illegal! No one can go to any other country in the world, overstay their visit and say they have claims to the same rights as the citizens of that country …

  1. This event is very much similar to what Puerto Ricans are suffering given the Irma and Mary issues gives the bureaucracy that exists at the FEMA agency. Once elected I will endeavor to address the bureaucratic obstacles so that allocated congressional funds get to the Keys. The same is true for all the bureaucratic and obstructive practices in the national flood insurance program which is also equally culpable for failing to bring the necessary coverage to the needy families in Monroe County. At the state level I will endeavor with my state colleagues to guarantee that federal funds issued through the state are not lost …

 

  1. The approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget, to help restore water quality south of Lake Okeechobee only address the public policy of the White House it doesn’t address the congressional obligation to allocate the necessary funds under the single constitutional duty members of congress have to pass a budget that is representative of the needs of the people. The is a far bigger issue than just Monroe county contamination of algae in the everglades national park will destroy ecosystems that are protected under the national endangered species act, the Florida wetlands & the national park service.

Demetries Grimes, Democrat

A retired commander of the United State Navy, Grimes slogan is “I’m not done serving.” He has various degrees in international relations, security and a master’s in business from the London Business School. He is both an experienced aviator and diplomat, serving as naval attaché in Greece and Israel. This is his first run for office.

  1. The right leadership can address both together. Simplifying the path to legal residency and citizenship will alleviate the pressure on the borders. Bringing the undocumented out of the shadows will prevent their exploitation and enable them to openly contribute to our communities, economy, and our tax base. As a sovereign nation, our borders must be respected and protected. We can use new technologies to minimize costs and maximize effectiveness. As a global moral leader, our nation must treat ALL people humanely no matter the circumstances. Our highest national security priority should be a cyber firewall versus a physical wall.

 

  1. The process for both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and State level Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM) authorizations need to be streamlined to process claims faster and more efficiently. Once the FDEM has authorized a claim to a city or local government, a mechanism should be in place to enable FEMA to reimburse the local governments directly without having to send the funds via FDEM. The local governments, which don’t have large cash reserves, should also be authorized to claim interest on lines of credit paid while waiting for claims to be processed.

 

  1. The Southern Reservoir project is a national treasure and resource protection priority. The increased storage capacity, treatment and movement of clean water south of Lake Okeechobee will stop the damaging discharges to the coastal estuaries. Restoring the flow of clean, fresh water to the Everglades National Park, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys will improve the health of Lake Okeechobee, protect the drinking water for eight million Floridians living in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, protect the economic activities that thrive from having a pristine environment and healthy Everglades, and protect quality of life for future generations.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Democrat

With a masters in international political economy, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and is employed at Florida International University. Over the last 20 years, she has also worked for local non-profits. In 2015, she was unsuccessful in her bid for a state senator seat.

  • Top three issues: Healthcare, gun reform and environment.
  • Campaign website: debbie2018.com

 

  1. I would first prioritize protecting immigrants who are already part of our country, especially DREAMers, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and all those whose lives are immediately threatened by Trump’s policies. I would also support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that benefits immigrant families and ensures border security.

 

  1. Due to a lack of hurricane preparedness at the state and federal level, local volunteers in our community in the Keys have been the ones to take on the heavy task of cleaning up our canals and streets. In Congress, I would work with local organizations to ensure we are prepared for the next storm, and I’d make sure the state and the federal government use our resources quickly and efficiently.

 

  1. The blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee is one of the most urgent issues facing South Florida today. Our community deserves clean water, not just for the industries that depend on it but also for the health of our children. I would make sure all my colleagues in Congress understand the environmental and public health implications of their inaction, because this is a problem that needs to be solved immediately.

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