After holding a congressional seat for nearly 30 years, Republican Cuban-American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida's District 27 will be stepping down, and the seat is already heavily contested. Five Democrats, nine Republicans, and one Independent candidate are running to fill the seat as of May 2018.
But the community within District 27 (Coral Gables, Miami Beach, South Miami, Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, and parts of Miami) is much different now than it was in 1989, when Ros-Lehtinen was first elected. Steve Schale, State Director for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign in Florida, expects candidates to take various approaches to grab voters' attention.
"What you see now in Miami is big pockets of Colombians, and Venezuelans, and Dominicans," Schale said. "It's sort of its own United Nations in Miami. Depending where your heritage is, immigration may or may not be a big issue, crime may or not be an issue."
When Ros-Lehtinen was first elected in 1989, the population reflected Cuban and Cuban-American views.
"It's time to figure out what each candidates' path to victory is and then what issues help them get there," Schale said.
According to the 2016 American Community Survey of U.S. Census, the district is 71% Hispanic, yet the majority of candidates are non-Hispanic. Schale believes the cultural diversity and growing population of third-generation immigrants could lead a Democrat to flip the seat.
As of May 2018, Congress is majority Republican: Republicans hold 234 seats, while Democrats hold 193; eight seats are currently vacant.
Democrats held a candidate forum Saturday, hosted by Florida Young Democrats. The panel included Kristen Rosen-Gonzalez, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson, and Donna Shalala.
The forum can be viewed here.