Could Mary Barzee Flores be 2018’s sleeper upset?
Mary Barzee Flores, the Democratic challenger in CD 25 is demanding to debate her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

flores diaz balart

Will moderate Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo succumb to a Blue Wave? Will Democrat, Donna Shalala actually lose a seat that went plus-20 for Hillary in ‘16?

While those questions get hashed and rehashed by the media and those of us in The Process, a third Miami congressional seat appears to be breaking late, setting up the potential for an upset that would be earth shattering to South Florida politics.

Former Judge Mary Barzee Flores exited the CD27 Democratic primary abruptly on the last day of filing to throw her hat in against incumbent Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart in Florida’s 25th Congressional District. It’s a tough district for a Democrat, to be sure. Republicans outnumbered Dems on the basis of both registration and turnout, and the incumbent is from a political dynasty that’s a household name among Miami Cubans.

But while Shalala and Debbie Marcusel-Powell fight their higher-profile battles in the 27th and 26th, Barzee Flores is quietly building the momentum in the 25th.

Today brought more good news for Barzee Flores, with the endorsement of former VPOTUS and working-class hero, Joe Biden. But aside from Joe-mentum, Flores’ campaign has been on a roll lately.

The Naples Daily News endorsed her over the Republican two Sundays ago, in an editorial that basically said “it’s time for a change,” echoing a sentiment that seems pervasive across the electorate in 2018.

And MDB has been taking it on the chin repeatedly over the last few weeks.

First it was rabble rousing activist/blogger Grant Stern breaking a story that Diaz-Balart may have committed a federal crime by lying on a mortgage application. That was followed by a week of very bizarre, “the lady doth protest too much”-type denials from Diaz-Balart — trotting out emails from loan originators and generally overreacting to a liberal blogger who most incumbents probably wouldn’t even dignify with a response.

Then came a one-two punch of brutal stories from CBSMiami’s Jim Defede. One a broad piece about the intersection of guns and politics in 2018, that showcased the CD 25 race, along with Diaz-Balart’s post-Parkland NRA funding as the centerpiece of the segment. Then an equally devastating piece that basically implied a pay-to-play nexus between Mario’s seat in congress and the foreign lobbying contracts of his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

In the midst of all that, the Miami Herald smacked Diaz-Balart for his wife, Tia’s involvement with a travel agency that advertised trips to Venezuela — a major no-no for Cuban exiles who view the Maduro regime in much the same way as they do the Castro’s. That story contained a truly bizarre denial from the Diaz-Balart camp, basically that Tia wasn’t very good at her job and never booked such a trip, along with a lightning speed scrubbing of her company’s website and social media pages.

All the while, Barzee Flores is dominating the Ft. Myers-Naples media market (where about 1/3 of the district resides) with a devastating ad tying Diaz-Balart to red tide and green algae by way of his campaign donations. And Diaz-Balart seems to be nowhere, dodging debates and running very modest TV buys that attack his opponent in ways that are both confusing and specious.

The makeup of this district remains favorable for the incumbent, but if election night ends up bringing a blue wave to Florida — even a rather modest one — this could well become an historic upset to the Miami political landscape.

You heard it here first, folks. Florida’s 25th is one to watch next Tuesday.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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