Miami-Dade County

Salazar seeks 2020 rematch with Shalala, mistakenly directs voters to opponent’s website

Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miami-Dade Republicans, joined candidate Maria Elvira Salazar when she won the Republican primary nomination for the U.S Congress District 27 seat being vacated by Ros-Lehtinen. Salazar lost to Democrat Donna Shalala in November, and is now seeking a rematch.
Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miami-Dade Republicans, joined candidate Maria Elvira Salazar when she won the Republican primary nomination for the U.S Congress District 27 seat being vacated by Ros-Lehtinen. Salazar lost to Democrat Donna Shalala in November, and is now seeking a rematch. pportal@miamiherald.com

Less than a year after losing the race to succeed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the representative of a Miami congressional district, former Spanish-language broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar is seeking a rematch with Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala.

Salazar, 57, announced her candidacy Thursday by tweeting a new campaign video that touts her years covering Latin America. The Republican Cuban-American journalist wrote that she believes “South Florida deserves better than politicians like Donna Shalala who stand by while radicals peddle the same socialist agenda that has ruined the countries from which many of us escaped.”

At its conclusion, the video directs viewers to a misspelled web address — www.mariaelvriasalazar.com — that when typed in redirected browsers to Shalala’s website.

“We made a mistake. Mistakes happen and now we’re fixing it,” Salazar said in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Evan Ross, a local Democratic strategist who is a fan of Shalala’s but does not work for her campaign, said he noticed Salazar’s misspelled website early Thursday morning and registered the domain name so the link redirected to Shalala’s campaign website.

Salazar’s campaign also mistakenly filed to run in Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s neighboring district before amending the paperwork on Thursday.

“Considering her campaign misspelled her own name and then filed to run in the wrong district, you should quote us as yawning,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Avery Jaffe said in an email.

Salazar, in her first campaign, ran a surprisingly competitive race against Shalala. She lost to the former University of Miami president and Health and Human Services secretary by six percentage points.

This time, Salazar will be running in a presidential election year, but that may not be an advantage. President Donald Trump lost Shalala’s congressional district by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

Salazar said she plans to cast Shalala as a “Washington elite amassing money and power,” but did not provide specifics when asked what Shalala has done as a member of Congress that warrants her ouster. She stopped short of calling Shalala a socialist, a popular attack line from Trump and Republicans.

“I think she is getting very close to the people that love that dogma and love that ideology,” Salazar said, adding that she doesn’t need help from national Republicans to win.

In a statement, Shalala pointed out that she’s spoken at a dozen town halls in the past seven months and is a leading voice in Washington for Venezuela issues.

“There will be a time for political debates next year. Today, Congresswoman Donna Shalala is focused on serving her constituents,” spokesperson María Casado said, adding that Shalala is “pushing to expand access to affordable healthcare and ... leading the charge to protect Venezuelans in South Florida despite opposition from many Republicans.”

Shalala will have a sizable head start in fundraising, with nearly $550,000 on hand to spend in the 2020 election. The Cook Political Report lists Shalala’s seat as “likely Democratic.

Salazar will likely need national support to raise enough funds for a competitive race.

“I need help from the community,” Salazar said. “The only help I need is from the people in District 27. What happened last time is the party bailed her out in the last two weeks because she is politically well-connected.”

Salazar is the second Republican to announce a congressional bid for a Miami seat that changed party hands last year. Irina Vilariño, a Republican activist whose family founded the Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine restaurant chain, announced a campaign against Rep. Mucarsel-Powell in April.

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