It’s official. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez is entering the 2020 race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District as a Republican candidate.
Onlookers expected the move last week after the Miami Herald reported Giménez told supporters an official announcement would come last Wednesday.
But Giménez waited an extra week, announcing he was entering the race with a Twitter post on the same day President Donald Trump had a scheduled visit in South Florida.
“Welcome to Miami @realDonaldTrump,” Giménez wrote. “Thank you for all you’ve done for our economy & to fight socialism. I look forward to standing w/ you against the radical left who are determined to turn the U.S. into Venezuela. I’m running!”
That led to a tweet response from the President where he endorsed the Giménez campaign.
“Carlos will win big, very exciting,” Trump said. “Great for Florida, great for USA! He has my complete and total Endorsement!”
Giménez cannot run for reelection as Mayor due to term limits, leaving him to choose between taking a break from political office or seeking another race.
Giménez is running to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. In competing for the GOP nod in CD 26, he’ll join restaurateur Irina Vilariño and Omar Blanco, the former head of Miami-Dade Firefighters Local 1403.
Giménez — who has only run in nonpartisan contests in the past — hinted at his newfound ambition with a tweet earlier this month thanking Trump for “cut[ting] red tape and expedit[ing] construction projects without hurting our environment.”
Despite the heavy Hispanic makeup of CD 26, it’s likely that Giménez will need to show loyalty to the President to emerge from the Republican field.
After Giménez made his announcement, Vilariño released a statement where she targeted Giménez for supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.
“I know that Republican voters will want to learn how a person who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and wanted to leave the Republican party in 2014, will have the conviction to defend the policies that are vital for the prosperity of our country and our community,” Vilariño said.
But so far, neither Vilariño nor Blanco have matched the fundraising prowess of Mucarsel-Powell. That leaves the door open for Giménez, the most polished politician of the trio, to carve a path toward a general election slot.
October polling obtained by Florida Politics from a national GOP organization showed Giménez leading a hypothetical Republican primary with 51% support. Blanco secured just 6%. Vilarino earned only 2%.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) responded to the announcement by continuing to push its “Corrupt Carlos” moniker against Giménez.
“Corrupt Carlos Giménez is swampier than the Everglades and voters will learn about his decades-long record of enriching himself, his family and his wealthy friends at the expense of hardworking Floridians,” DCCC spokesman Avery Jaffe said.
“When he wasn’t cutting sweetheart deals for his political donors and family members, Corrupt Carlos was busy raising health care costs and laying off hundreds of workers, kicking millions in government contracts to his family and enabling Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda.”
Latino Victory Fund, a George Soros-backed group aimed at supporting Democratic candidates, also set its sights on Giménez.
“Our country is facing one of the most corrupt and despotic presidents in history, and the last thing Congress needs is another Trump acolyte like Corrupt Carlos Giménez roaming its halls,” said Mayra Macías, the group’s Executive Director.
“South Florida voters deserve a champion who will have their best interest at heart, not a selfish politician who is willing to betray his constituents for money. From protecting and expanding health care access to those who need it the most to lowering prescription drug prices, and standing up for our hard-working immigrant communities, Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has proven to be that champion. That’s why Latino Victory proudly stands with her.”