Republican Irina Vilariño withdraws from CD 26 race
Republican Irina Vilarino drops out of the CD 26 race. Image via The Washington Post.

Vilariño had lagged in fundraising after Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez entered the contest.

Republican candidate Irina Vilariño says she is withdrawing from the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, after mounting a year-long campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

“I will not continue as a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 26th District,” Vilariño wrote in a Thursday email blast.

“I took on this endeavor a year ago cognizant of what a campaign entailed. I was prepared to take on the establishment, liberal media, and the deep-pocket special interests. Yet, circumstances have shifted and rather than splitting party votes, I’d rather we have a chance of regaining congressional district 26 for the good of the nation. Sometimes winning goes beyond a personal win. What is good for the community and our nation is a win for us all.”

Some campaigns are obviously struggling to deal with heavy restrictions in place due to the novel coronavirus difficult. As Americans struggle financially, many may also prioritize needed good over campaign contributions.

Nevertheless, donations to Vilariño had begun to dry up even before the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s thanks in part to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez entering the race in January.

Last quarter, Giménez easily outraised Vilariño and a third Republican candidate, Omar Blanco, the former head of Miami-Dade Firefighters Local 1403.

Giménez added more than $415,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31, while Vilariño collected just over $10,000 and Blanco raised about $8,000.

Vilariño is a native of Cuba who owns a string of “Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine” restaurants in South Florida. She arrived in the U.S. as part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

She courted controversy after a series of conspiratorial Twitter posts was unearthed back in May 2019. Some of those posts included furthering the Barack Obama birther conspiracy.

Vilariño resisted an apology at the time. “I don’t think any of these tweets warrant an apology, and I am not going to fearfully pander every time someone thinks they might be offended,” Vilariño said.

In her Thursday statement announcing her withdrawal, Vilariño said she would return “a pro-rata share” of contributions to her campaign.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and know that I remain committed to doing my part so that this great American experiment continues for future generations,” Vilariño said.

“I hope that we all continue to do our part in holding elected officials accountable no matter party affiliation. In order to ensure our great country remains great, we must curtail corruption, unmask unwarranted policies that go against our constitutional liberties and limit the influence of special interests that tilt the tables in favor of few while hindering the well being of many.”

Ryan Nicol

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 [email protected].


  • Pat

    April 24, 2020 at 2:56 am

    I hope Debbie makes him spend it all. What a knucklehead is Gimenez. He thinks he’s going to knock off a popular Democratic incumbent in what will be a Democratic year in a Democratic stronghold as South Florida? This wouldn’t be a good year for a Republican running in Democratic South Florida under normal times, but especially so now, particularly since Gimenez will be down-ticket from the worst, most failed GOP president in American history. But you go ahead, Carlos, and throw all that money away. You and your top-of-the-ticket Dumpster Fire will both be unemployed as a result of November’s election!

    • Chuck Sands

      April 24, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      Gotta love the rantings of the delusional. Gimenez is a RINO A-hole, but that district has become too contaminated by loser Latinos who want handouts and N.E. refugees who flee the unsustainable crap they voted for and then proceed to vote for the same crap in a red state. For that reason, it’s most likely unwinnable by a strong conservative, but it’s also been a toss up for years and even David Rivera won it twice. Gimenez will be a hold the nose vote, but he can beat the DMP bitch. As for Trump’s record, it was stellar, record setting and unprecedented before Covid 19 and his handling has been just as stellar and unprecedented. He’ll win in a landslide over brain dead Plugs, and you can SUCK ON IT!!

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