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South Florida

GOP candidate in CD 27 drops out, endorses Donna Shalala

A topsy-turvy week of political news just got a bit stranger after Democrat Donna Shalala appears to have just pulled in a new endorsement — from a Republican opponent in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Following comments made to Univision, Stephen Marks has confirmed to Florida Politics that he has stopped campaigning in the CD 27 Republican primary and has endorsed Shalala.

Marks will still appear on the primary ballot. But he says his own polling shows him trailing former news anchor for Telemundo and CNN en Español Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro by a large enough margin that he doesn’t feel like he has a shot at winning.

Marks

The decision by Marks comes after a Salazar internal poll showed her lapping the Republican field in CD 27.

While we always preach caution when it comes to internal polls, Marks earned just four percent support compared with Salazar’s 40 percent. Barreiro was in second place with 16 percent.

But Marks made clear his own internal polling showed Barreiro and Salazar in a dead heat. Florida Politics was able to review the results, which showed Barreiro earning 31 percent support to Salazar’s 30 percent. That was in a survey of 211 likely voters with a margin of error of 6.75 percent.

Marks released one of the more attention-grabbing ads in the GOP primary for CD 27. The ad, unveiled in May, placed blame on the government for the death of his parents.

“I’m running for Congress because they both just died from our government’s policies that make the lives of senior citizens worthless,” Marks said in the ad.

Marks says that health care for seniors is what drove him to enter the race and is now driving him to endorse Shalala, a Democrat.

“Even if I disagree with a lot of the other stuff she does, I think she would be the best person to fight for senior citizens,” Marks said. “So I made this radical decision to cross party lines.”

Marks has spent decades in Republican politics as a consultant for various campaigns. He even wrote a book on the topic in 2008 called “Confessions of a Political Hitman.”

Marks told Florida Politics he was concerned with increasing Alzheimer’s research, increased funding for assisted living facilities, and an overhaul of nursing homes throughout the country.

Shalala appears focused on tackling these issues in Congress, which attracted his endorsement, he added: “She’s very in sync with me on this.”

But he also says he supports Barreiro in the Republican primary. Marks recently put out an ad hitting Salazar over a 1995 interview she did with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Shalala also reacted to the news of the endorsement with a statement sent to Florida Politics. While she has been hit by her Democratic opponents for being the “establishment candidate” in the race, Shalala sees the news of Marks’ endorsement as a sign of her candidacy’s strength.

“I’ve spent my entire life getting things done no matter where I was serving,” Shalala said. “I’m happy that my lifelong commitment to service is being recognized not only by Democrats but also by Republicans.”

However, one of her primary opponents, state Rep. David Richardson, slammed Shalala for accepting Marks’ endorsement.

“After Donna Shalala donated over $20,000 to Republicans, are we really surprised that one just endorsed her?,” Richardson asked.

“Not just any Republican, but Marks is a veteran of the D.C. establishment who led the charge for corporate healthcare in his congressional campaign. I agree: he and Donna Shalala are very in sync on healthcare.”

Marks didn’t quite claim he and Shalala were completely in sync on health care, however, only noting their agreement on those issues important to Marks.

Former Knight Foundation Program Director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn are also competing for the Democratic nomination.

The winner of the CD 27 Democratic primary will face the task of converting a seat held by longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who elected not to run for re-election. An appeal to GOP voters and independents could help in that effort.

The primary will be held Tuesday.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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