MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Democratic incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is running against Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for the 26th Congressional District seat.

CBS4 spoke with the candidates about their stances on various issues, both in South Florida and the country.

Mucarsel-Powell took her oath of office in 2019.  As the first South American immigrant member of Congress, she is part of the Judiciary Committee as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Gimenez’s family immigrated from Cuba. He was elected Mayor of Miami-Dade in a 2011 special election and re-elected in 2012 and 2016.

This is Gimenez’s first time running for Congress and Mucarsel-Powell’s second.

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Each candidate was interviewed separately and asked the same set of questions.

One of the most pressing and prevalent problems we are facing is the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic consequences.

Here is what each of the candidates had to say:

“I think I have done a lot of things right,” says Mayor Gimenez. “I consulted with my medical experts throughout the process. We shut down what we needed to shut down. We looked at the evidence, and we looked at the data to drive all our decisions. We’ve done it in a very methodical way, being very conservative. We closed down things when we had to close them, and then we opened them when we thought it was safe to do so.”

“In Miami-Dade County, COVID has left more than 3,000 people who have lost their lives to this pandemic,” says Representative Mucarsel-Powell.  “We had become a hotspot, not just in Florida, but in the entire world at one point during the summer, because of his failure to really follow the science, the data, to make sure that we had enough testing sites in place and to institute a contact tracing program.”

In terms of the economy, Gimenez says: “In Congress I would look for a stimulus package that stimulates growth that incentivizes business, not disincentivizes business. I would not be in favor of raising the tax on corporations. That’s just going to disincentivize companies from hiring Americans, and that’s exactly what we need to get our economy rolling again.”

Mucarsel-Powell says: “We need to provide economic relief to the small businesses who have lost millions and millions of dollars during the pandemic. To so many of them who have not been able to reopen, we need to extend unemployment benefits. I have been advocating for extending 600 dollars through January 2021, and we need to send another round of stimulus checks.”

The health crisis we are facing brings up the matter of healthcare and costs.

“What we need to do is make sure we protect the Affordable Care Act,” says Mucarsel-Powell. Right now, the Trump Administration and the Republicans in Washington D.C. are trying to abolish the Affordable Care Act. In this district, we have 300,000 people that are living with pre-existing conditions that could lose their coverage because of this lawsuit that Trump is, during a pandemic, intent on following through.”

“If, in fact Obamacare is found unconstitutional, then we are going to have to redo the entire system,” Gimenez says.  “One thing I will always be supporting is pre-existing conditions, people with pre-existing conditions, and try to help, as much as possible, those who need good, quality healthcare. What I will not do is throw out 200 million private healthcare plans to provide a government-run healthcare.”

The demand for racial justice has been front and center this year, highlighting concerns with police brutality and marches for change, some turning violent.

“I instituted the policy with body-worn cameras,” says Gimenez.  “Why? Because a lot of the time it is a ‘he said/she said’ situation. When you have a body-worn camera you know exactly what happened. It also drives better behavior, not only from the person you’re interacting with, but also the police officer themselves. That doesn’t mean that we have a perfect police department. The police department is a reflection of the community, but when an officer steps out of line, they get disciplined.”

“When there is violence in the streets, those people causing violence have to be held accountable, and I think we can all agree with that. But they have forgotten that, meanwhile, you have thousands of peaceful protesters demanding justice, and the Republicans are turning their back on that. They have blocked the Justice and Policing Act. Of course, the Senate, again, another bill that we have passed, they have not even debated that bill.”

Regarding the political and social unrest in Venezuela, one thing they do both agree on is granting Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

“I support TPS for Venezuelans and for all of those seeking a better life here in Miami-Dade County. I’ve expressed that over and over again,” Gimenez says.  “In Venezuela, we have to get to the root of the problem. It’s socialism. It’s totalitarianism. There is a dictator in Venezuela, just like there is a dictator in Cuba. Unfortunately, my opponent not only voted, but spoke against an amendment identifying socialism and communism as the problems in Venezuela, and probably Cuba too. She said Trump was the problem in those countries, which is ridiculous.”

“One of the things I did and it passed through the House in a bipartisan fashion, is to provide funding for humanitarian aid. And that passed. The next thing we did in the Judiciary committee, which I am a member of, was TPS, temporary protected status. For those Venezuelans living here, they deserve to know they will not be deported, which many of them have under this administration. So I have been fighting to make sure the Senate passes TPS, as well.”

This is an important race because it has the potential to affect which party has control of the House.  Right now, the Democratic Party is the majority. All seats are up for reelection, though, so if the Republican party gains 20 seats, they would be the party in control.

To read more on each of the candidates, you can visit their respective websites: debbiemucarselpowell.com or carlosgimenezforcongress.com

Karli Barnett

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