Republicans and Democrats beware: The “master of selfies” is running for Congress.
Mayra Joli, a Brickell-based immigration attorney and five-time beauty queen who dabbles as a pundit on Spanish-language television, is running without a party affiliation for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami-based seat.
Joli, a lifelong Democrat, is also an ardent Donald Trump supporter who says that her 12 years on television gives her enough visibility to win.
“I am not looking to run because I need a paycheck, like Donald Trump. I’m not looking to run because I need fame, like Donald Trump. I’m running because I need this country to succeed,” Joli said. “Like Donald Trump, I don’t drink.”
The self-described “Jenny from the block” could potentially impact one of the nation’s most competitive congressional elections in 2018 due to her pro-Trump message.
While Joli will face an uphill climb to win the open congressional seat that favors Democrats, her pro-Trump stance could create a complicated situation for the Republican nominee in a district where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over 19 percentage points in 2016.
“Being a Trump supporter in that district may not be the best tactic or person to be supporting if you actually want to win,” said Miami attorney Rick Yabor, a frequent political commentator in Spanish-language media. “What I think she does as an independent is she’s going to hurt the GOP candidate when it comes to the general.”
Joli kicked off her campaign two weeks ago at a pro-Trump rally in Tropical Park, complete with an LED billboard displaying her face and a karaoke machine.
As she grabbed the microphone to introduce herself to the audience, the karaoke machine began to play Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Joli jumped right into the chorus, belting out an off-key “And I...” before beginning her stump speech.
“Eventually I’m going to master it,” Joli said, adding that the karaoke machine will be a fixture at all of her future campaign events.
“We need to chill out, we need to relax a little,” Joli said. “We’re going to take pictures. I am the master of selfies. My husband says I was born with a built-in selfie sitck. I take pictures with everybody.”
But while Joli is a fan of Trump’s “political incorrectness” and TV fame, she has some serious policy disagreements with the White House.
Joli, a native of the Dominican Republic, supports expanding legal immigration and said that the Trump administration should give Temporary Protected Status holders visas from the existing visa lottery instead of forcing them to return home. She also disagrees with the president on climate change.
“Mr. Donald Trump doesn’t have the right people around him telling him how immigration works,” Joli said. “What we have is people who write pretty and present it to Donald Trump.”
Joli is adamant that she will win and said her base of support is wide, including “the Cubans, the Americans, the Latinos, the Dominicans.”
“People are supporting me every which way,” she said. “You would be surprised how famous I am in this community.”