Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s announcement Sunday that she won’t seek reelection means a congressional swing district that has essentially been locked up for three decades for the Republican Party will now be up for grabs.
No sooner had she announced her decision to retire than political insiders began to bandy about the names of future successors, and potential candidates began to express their interest.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers quickly issued a statement Sunday promising to “keep this seat red in 2018.” But where Ros-Lehtinen won by 10 points, the district swayed heavily Democratic in the presidential race, and the DCCC issued its own statement Sunday declaring the post “all but guaranteed to be won by a Democrat.”
The recently redrawn district includes all or portions of Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne, Miami, Miami Beach, Pinecrest, South Miami and Westchester.
Here are some of the names you might see on the ballot:
▪ Scott Fuhrman, a Democrat who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in November after District 27 was redrawn to lean Democratic and lost 45-55. Furhman has said he will run for the seat again in 2018.
▪ Kristen Rosen Gonzalez: A Miami Beach commissioner and Miami Dade College professor finishing her PhD on leadership in higher education administration at Barry University. A Democrat, she filed campaign papers this month.
▪ Michael A. Hepburn: A senior academic adviser for the School of Business at the University of Miami who lost a primary campaign against Daphne Campbell for the state House in 2014. He is a Democrat, and serves on the Allapattah Neighborhood Association and the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee.
▪ Mark Anthony Person, a Democrat, has filed to run with the state Division of Elections.
▪ Bruno Barreiro: A Republican Miami-Dade County commissioner, Barreiro says “I’ve always eyed this district. I would never have run against Ileana. She’s a friend and I support her. We’re going to miss a lot her incredible leadership.”
▪ Mary Barzee Flores: A former state judge, Democrat and Stearns Weaver attorney whose nomination to the federal bench was blocked by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. “I’m really humbled by the number of calls I am receiving encouraging me to run and I am seriously considering it.”
▪ Daniella Levine Cava: The Democratic Miami-Dade County Commissioner says “I am totally committed to our community and serving in the role where I can have the biggest impact. I rule nothing out.” (She’s currently running for reelection to her county seat.)
▪ Jose Felix Diaz: Already in the running to become South Florida’s top federal prosecutor and considering a run for Frank Artiles’ vacated Senate seat, the Republican state representative from Miami isn’t ruling out a run for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat. “There are a lot of options out there right now. I have one week left in session after which I can sit down and see which, if any, of these opportunities would make sense for me and my family. Right now, I think today is about celebrating Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and her decades of distinguished service.”
▪ Anitere Flores: The term-limited state senator’s name (R-Miami) is out there as someone considering a run. She hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
▪ Rene Garcia: The term-limited Republican state senator from Hialeah (and former Ros-Lehtinen intern) says he’s thinking about it. “Is it something I would consider? Absolutely. I’ll think about it, but right now my mind is on the budget and trying to deliver for my constituents.”
▪ Matt Haggman: A Democrat, former Miami Herald reporter and current Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, Haggman said Sunday that he’s considering a run for District 27. “It’s something I’ve been actively thinking about for a while now,” he said.
▪ Cindy Lerner: The former mayor of Pinecrest reached term limits last year and served one term in the Florida house. She said she will decide within two weeks. “It's something I always said if Ileana retired I would do it in a heartbeat.”
▪ Carlos López-Cantera: “Ileana is leaving big shoes to fill,” Florida’s Republican lieutenant governor said Sunday. “Her service to South Florida has been exceptional. I’m humbled by the outpouring of support that is already coming in. I’m going to spend the next few days discussing it with my family and go from there.”
▪ Jimmy Morales: Miami Beach’s Democratic city manager says he’s “still processing. I am sure there will be many people on both sides looking at the seat.” (No kidding.)
▪ Raquel Regalado: The Republican former Miami-Dade School Board member says she’s strongly considering a run after her phone blew up Sunday.
▪ David Richardson: The Democratic state representative from Miami Beach says he’s definitely thinking about a run. “Over the next few days I’ll be talking with constituents, friends and supporters on how I can continue to best serve and represent my community.”
▪ José Javier Rodríguez: The junior state senator and Democrat from Miami said in a text that he will give a campaign a “hard look” after the legislative session is over.
▪ Ken Russell: The Democratic Miami District 2 commissioner didn’t rule out a run when asked Sunday if he’s considering a campaign for Congress. “I have received calls urging me to run for Congress. I can only say that up to now I had not considered it, and that we should use this time to thank Ileana for her many years of service to her constituents.”
▪ Marc Sarnoff: A Democrat and former Miami city commissioner, Sarnoff said he’s “looking carefully” at Ros-Lehtinen’s seat and will consult with his family.
▪ Xavier Suarez: The Miami-Dade County commissioner and former Miami mayor who is an independent said he will consider a bid but may not decide for awhile. “There is definitely room or someone who is independent.”
▪ Juan Zapata, who gave up his Miami-Dade commission seat last summer amid a challenge by predecessor Joe Martinez, is eyeing a Congressional run, a source close to Zapata said. The Republican former state representative has already expressed interest in running for the suddenly vacant state Senate seat once held by nemesis Frank Artiles.
“I am keeping all options open....At the appropriate time I will take a close look at things and if I decide to run where I could best serve and contribute.”
▪ Manny Diaz:His name has been floated. Is Miami's former mayor interested in returning to the limelight in D-27? "No."
▪ Miguel Diaz de la Portilla: The Republican former state senator says "I thank Ileana for her many years of service. A run for congress is not in my immediate plans."
▪ Philip Levine: Miami Beach’s Democratic mayor, currently mulling a run for governor, said he’s “focused on traveling the state and talking with residents about the future of Florida.”
Miami Herald staff writers Kristen Clark, Douglas Hanks, Mary Ellen Klas and Amy Sherman contributed to this report.