GOP admits Florida seat held by 30-year incumbent will 'go to the Democrats'


With longtime incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retiring, Republicans are starting to concede that Florida’s 27th Congressional District is unwinnable.

Democrats need to score a net gain of 24 congressional seats to win control of the House of Representatives this year.

And one GOP-controlled seat in particular looks to be a slam dunk pickup for Democrats.

According to the Miami Herald, Republicans are now all but prepared to give up on Florida’s 27th Congressional District, where moderate 30-year incumbent Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring:

“The seat is now going to go to the Democrats,” said Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member and candidate for Miami-Dade mayor who recently announced she was dropping out of the Republican race to replace Ros-Lehtinen. “I think I was the only moderate who could have fought that fight for a bunch of different reasons. I don’t think you’re going to see a large GOP financial investment. They’re looking for a moderate candidate, but I don’t think they’re going to find one.”

The state GOP had hoped to lure Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera into the race, but he said no. One of the most prominent Republicans now running for the seat is Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, who claims she was abducted by aliens that resembled Jesus Christ and now communicate telepathically with her.

But even if Republicans can find a sane candidate for this race, the deck is heavily stacked against them.

Florida’s 27th District, which encompasses southern Miami and the northernmost part of the Florida Keys, was first created in 2013 after the 2010 Census registered a growth in the state’s population. Prior to its creation, Ros-Lehtinen had represented the 18th District.

The 27th District is nearly 72 percent Hispanic, but it is more right-leaning than most districts with a large Hispanic population because it contains Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Many Cuban-Americans have distrusted anything even remotely resembling the political left, because they either fled from Communism or were raised by parents who had done so — as Marco Rubio once pretended his parents had done.

But Cuban-Americans have been shifting away from the GOP for a decade. In 2016, they were divided on Trump, in the wake of his attacks on Latino communities and refugees. And while Trump won Florida, the 27th District backed Hillary Clinton by 20 points.

These shifts mark a dramatic development for politics in Florida, which is historically purple, but voted for Trump and has unified Republican control of its state government. Between Trump’s collapsing popularity, forecasters predicting a massive blue wave in this year's election, and last year’s settlement of over 130,000 hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans in the state, the electoral environment there has changed substantially — and nowhere more so than the 27th District.

There is a reason Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. The seat is now all but unwinnable for the GOP — and her colleagues know it.