Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo will challenge incumbent Republican María Elvira Salazar this November in what may be the only competitive congressional race in Miami, after both won their respective primary contests on Tuesday for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
With early votes counted and most Election Day and vote-by-mail ballots tallied, Taddeo held a decisive lead over Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and Angel Montalvo. Taddeo led Russell by about 41 points, or more than 16,000 votes. Russell called Taddeo just before 8 p.m. to concede, and told a crowd gathered at his watch party that he’s endorsed her for the general election.
Salazar, meanwhile, handily won her primary race against Frank Polo. Unofficial results showed Salazar with about 81% of the vote.
The outcome sets up a clash between two Latinas to represent southeast Miami-Dade County in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The district, which like all legislative districts in Florida is newly drawn as a result of statewide redistricting, stretches from downtown Miami and Little Havana south to Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Cutler Bay. It is the only congressional district in South Florida where the 2020 presidential election was competitive, and represents a pickup opportunity for the Democratic Party as it tries to hold onto a thin majority in the U.S. House during an election cycle set up to favor Republicans.
In a statement following her win, Taddeo appealed to moderate voters in the district.
“In Congress I’m not just going to stand up for our freedoms, I’ll also work across the aisle to make changes that will make our families safer, our schools better, and our economy stronger for middle-class families,” she said. “I know that we have what it takes to flip this district because Miami: I believe in us.”
In the Democratic primary, Taddeo, the 55-year-old founder of translation business LanguageSpeak, was widely viewed as the favored candidate by the Democratic establishment after she dropped her bid for governor in June.
Democrats hope she can repeat the success of her first political victory in 2017, when she flipped a Republican-held seat in the Florida Senate and became the first Latina Democrat elected to that body. She was Charlie Crist’s running mate in his failed 2014 gubernatorial bid, and she’d previously lost a bid for Congress to then-Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008.
In the run-up to the primary, Taddeo was questioned about campaign contributions to her political committee, Fight Back Florida, made by groups connected the state’s powerful sugar industry. Her committee also received donations from groups linked to Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility company that has been embroiled in a web of political scandals.
Russell, who dropped a U.S. Senate bid to run for the U.S. House a second time, criticized Taddeo’s fundraising in several social media posts on TikTok, where his short videos found a following that, while wide, did not translate into enough votes inside the district.
Taddeo will now face Salazar, a Cuban-American former journalist and media personality who was elected in 2020 after she surprisingly beat Democratic incumbent Donna Shalala in a rematch of their 2018 race.
Taddeo, born in Colombia, has cast herself as a fighter who can be a loud opponent of GOP policies while still being unafraid of take aim at her own party, particularly on Latin American affairs. She criticized President Joe Biden when he removed the FARC, a Colombian Marxist guerrilla group, from the U.S. terror list.
Salazar, 60, has spent much of her first term advocating for immigration reform while representing a majority-Hispanic district. The district also features a high number of Obamacare enrollees.
In a statement after her victory, Salazar said her ascent to represent thousands of exiles in Congress after her family fled communist Cuba is only possible in the U.S.
“The American Dream is achievable, but it must be protected. Our community is one of the most diverse in the country, most of us related to exiles from all over the world,” she said. ”Today’s families are struggling with many of the same issues we fled from: record-high inflation, increased crime in our communities, and jobs that don’t pay the bills. I’m ready to continue the fight against reckless policies that led us here and put American exceptionalism at risk.”
This story was originally published August 23, 2022 8:01 PM.