This could make things interesting in my neighborhood.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida legislative delegation and the first Cuban American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after more than 35 years in elected office.
“It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” the Miami Republican told the Miami Herald in an exclusive telephone interview Sunday. “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’ ”
Her unexpected retirement marks the end of a storied career in which Ros-Lehtinen repeatedly broke political ground as a Cuban-American woman — and gives Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018.
Ros-Lehtinen, 64, was elected last November to Florida’s redrawn 27th district, a stretch of Southeast Miami-Dade County that leans so Democratic that Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points. It was Clinton’s biggest margin of any Republican-held seat in the country.
Ros-Lehtinen defeated Democratic challenger Scott Fuhrman, a first-time candidate, by 10 points. It was her closest reelection race in years and forced her to deplete her $3.4 million campaign account, but she said Sunday she wasn’t worried about 2018.
“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that she would have been able to raise at least $2.5 million and win in a midterm election without a Democratic presidential candidate leading the ballot.
But she said the prospect of another two or four or more years in Congress just didn’t appeal to her anymore.
“There was no epiphany. There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I’ve said, “I’ve got to move on,’” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected — but it’s not about getting elected.”
Compared to the right-wing nutsery that has taken over the GOP, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is a moderate and she’s right on LGBT issues. But as the article points out, she won re-election narrowly the last time and her district — which is also mine — is overwhelmingly Democratic; we gave Hillary Clinton the largest margin of victory in the state. Democrats are lining up to run for the seat.
What’s also interesting is that her colleague and next-district-over represntative, Carlos Curbelo, is vulnerable as well. If the Florida Democratic Party — or what’s left of it — can win back these two districts, that would be a good start to taking back the House.