photo of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen meets with Diana Castañeda and a crew member from NTN24 television (Public domain photo by the Office of U.S, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen)

Democrats Look to Capitalize on Ros-Lehtinen Retirement

On April 30, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her plans to retire from Congress in 2018. 

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Ros-Lehtinen said this was “a personal decision based on personal considerations”. The congresswoman has been in office for more than 35 years, and claims that it is time “to spend more time with family”.

Ros-Lehtinen has had a revolutionary career; she was the first Cuban-American to be elected to Congress and is well known for her support of the LGBTQ community.  

She is also notable for being one of the most vocal moderate Republican critics of Donald Trump. 

Ros-Lehtinen disagreed with Trump on issues such as immigration, budget cuts and transgender rights. Ros-Lehtinen has even gone as far to say “I don’t agree with many, if not most, positions of President Trump”, making her a standout in the Republican Party.

The congresswoman’s apparent opposition to the president has led some to believe this played a role in her decision to retire. 

However, Ros-Lehtinen affirms that the election of Donald Trump did not influence her decision-making process, it was simply just the right time to retire. 

As a representative of an area spanning from Little Havana to South Beach, Ros-Lehtinen is in one of the most Democratic-leaning seats in all of Florida. In fact, her district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 20 points in the general election.  

The opening of this seat has energized Democrats because this is the type of district they need to win in order to potentially flip control of the House.

Ros-Lehtinen is sitting in one of 23 Republican-led districts that voted for Clinton, and Democrats are eager to get control of each of these seats in 2018. 

The retirement of Ros-Lehtinen will bring the Democratic Party a step closer to accomplishing this task, so this announcement was certainly met with great excitement among liberals.

This announcement followed some other major events that have excited Democrats, such as the close elections involving Democrats James Thompson in Kansas and Jon Ossoff in Georgia. 

Thompson ran in the first congressional election to take place since the election of President Trump in one of the most Republican districts in the nation and came within only seven points of winning. Jon Ossoff ran in a special election in red Georgia that resulted in a runoff.  

Although neither resulted in victory, the closeness of these races shows the potential Democrats have in Republican territory.

As the most unpopular president, at this stage, in modern political history, the dissatisfaction with President Trump is thought to be a driving force behind these performances in Kansas and Georgia. 

In order to flip the House, Democrats need to capture this anti-Trump momentum and turn it into actual votes next November. The retirement of Ros-Lehtinen opens a seat that could easily be filled by a Democrat, but to take back control this must be accomplished 23 times over in traditionally red seats all over the country.