Democrats land a high-profile recruit to take on a freshman Republican in south Florida

Democrats land a high-profile recruit to take on a freshman Republican in south Florida

Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announced on Monday that she’d drop her bid for governor and would instead seek to run against freshman GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in south Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Republicans made this seat several points redder in redistricting, shifting it from a 51-48 win for Joe Biden to a 50-49 margin for Donald Trump, but it remains one that Democrats are eager to target.

Last year, Taddeo had entered the gubernatorial primary behind two much better-known opponents, Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and failed to gain any traction, with every recent poll showing her in the low single digits. But by switching races, Taddeo brings a high profile to a contest for a swingy seat that Democrat Donna Shalala picked up in 2018 but lost two years later.

After several unsuccessful bids for office, Taddeo flipped a Republican seat in the state Senate in an attention-grabbing 2017 special election, a perch that means she represents about one-quarter of the congressional district she’s now running for. The Colombia-born Taddeo also gives Democrats, who’ve lost serious ground with Hispanic voters in the region, the chance to put forward a Spanish-speaking Latina candidate.

First, though, Taddeo faces a matchup in the Aug. 23 primary with Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, a one-time professional yo-yo player who reiterated his commitment to the race after Taddeo’s entry. But Taddeo immediately hoovered up a series of major endorsements, with Shalala, Crist, and a couple of nearby congresswomen, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all giving her their backing.

The final name on that list represents quite the irony. In 2008, when Taddeo first ran for the House against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Shalala’s predecessor), Wasserman Schultz infamously refused to endorse Taddeo despite the fact that she was co-chair of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program—the Democrats’ campaign arm devoted to flipping Republican seats. Wasserman Schultz’s absurd excuse that she couldn’t get involved because of her supposed friendship with Ros-Lehtinen sparked immense outrage online and among Florida Democrats (we covered the scandal extensively at our predecessor site, the Swing State Project here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but she never budged and Taddeo went on to lose 58-42.

Wasserman Schultz remains in office but her career has soured badly: She was greeted with widespread hostility when she floated the possibility of a Senate bid in 2015, and a year later, she was forced to resign as DNC chair after hackers released emails stolen from the committee. Taddeo, by contrast, is being hailed as a strong recruit at a time when Democrats could very much use one.

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