Florida’s 27th Congressional District is “one of the best chances nationwide for a Democratic pickup in the party's quest to win House control from the GOP,” NBC News affiliate WTVJ reported in August. The Huffington Post reported separately in June that the South Florida seat “looks like one of the party’s best pickup opportunities in the midterm elections.”
For the Democrat in the contest, former Clinton Foundation head Donna Shalala, the race to take the seat held by the retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., wasn’t supposed to be difficult. But difficult is exactly what the race is shaping up to be for once-confident Democrats. Between a lack of voter enthusiasm for Shalala and at least one major unforced error, the opposition party may end up blowing what was supposed to be a sure thing.
When a Mason-Dixon poll out Friday showed Shalala trailing by two points, she had to release an internal poll (it showed her up five) to keep the sharks at bay. Shalala’s internal poll shows her performing better with Cuban voters than she did in the Mason-Dixon Telemundo survey. That's obviously a good sign for Shalala, especially considering Cubans represent a plurality of voters in the 27th District. But it could all fall apart following the Shalala campaign's announcement that they'd be joined Wednesday by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
Lee is on record praising the Castro regime in Cuba and defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. These are not popular positions in the district.
Castro is the reason so many Cubans are in Florida in the first place. Also, more than 200,000 Venezuelans have settled in South Florida since 2014 as a direct result of the Maduro regime, according to University of Miami study released earlier this year.
When Fidel Castro died in 2016, Rep. Lee said, “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss … [Castro] led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people.” Earlier, in 2015, Lee also lobbied former President Barack Obama to oppose the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act, which was created for the purpose of punishing the Maduro regime for various human rights violations.
Shalala maintained this week during a debate with Salazar, who is herself the child of refugees from the Castro regime, that she was unaware that Lee was slated to appear at the Democratic campaign event. This is a bit difficult to believe considering the event is scheduled at Shalala’s campaign headquarters. The Shalala press release announcing the campaign event with Lee has since been amended to include the following line: “A previous version indicated that Congresswoman Lee would be attending the canvass launch. Congresswoman Lee will not be attending.”
Even if Lee’s inclusion in the event was an honest error, the damage is still done. Shalala's team managed somehow to create a wedge between herself and Southern Florida’s massive Cuban and Venezuelan populations.
At this rate, Democrats may actually botch the race in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.