Annette Taddeo wins Democratic Primary for CD 27, to face María Elvira Salazar

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar easily the Republican Primary.

Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo has won the Democratic Primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District spanning southeast Miami-Dade Count and will face incumbent Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in the Nov. 8 General Election.

With early and mail-in voting totals tabulated and all 318 precincts reporting at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Taddeo captured 68% of the vote compared to 26% for Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and 6% for Democratic socialist candidate Angel Montalvo.

Salazar, a decorated former journalist who flipped CD 27 red two years ago, won 81% of the vote. Her challenger in the Republican Primary, Frank Polo, got 19%.

The Democratic field this year congealed in June. Russell, who began leveraging social media platforms like TikTok to stir interest among young voters while initially running against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, switched to the CD 27 contest in May. Taddeo did similarly a month later after dropping out of the Governor’s race. By the time he filed to run for CD 27 in July, Montalvo, who ran a “100% grassroots campaign,” was a longshot.

Of the three, Taddeo has been involved in politics the longest. Her political career began in 2008, when she mounted a campaign to unseat former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. She fared decently, capturing 42% of the vote in the General Election after cruising through the Democratic Primary unopposed.

She since sought several other elected positions and won some, including her 2012 election as Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee and her 2017 victory in a special election for Senate District 40. She is the first Latina Democrat to hold a seat in the chamber.

Taddeo, 55, has a personal story that resonates with many of her constituents, and her campaign has leaned into it this election cycle. Born in Colombia, where she underwent 19 surgeries to correct a cleft lip, she fled the country for America at 17 after the Marxist guerilla group FARC kidnapped her World War II veteran father.

She’s also a small business owner, having run LanguageSpeak, a Miami-based translation services company, for nearly three decades.

As a lawmaker, she recently backed successful legislation to lower education costs for disabled veteransimprove protections for apartment dwellersboost development of affordable housing and require financial literacy education in high school.

She proved herself an effective opponent of some GOP tactics and policies. Following news of a voter registration scam in which Spanish-speaking Miami residents were tricked into switching their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, Taddeo led an effort to determine who was responsible.

She later convinced her Republican Senate colleagues to include language raising financial penalties for organizations whose employees alter voter registration forms without a person’s knowledge in legislation that will go into effect next year.

Behind the scenes, Taddeo said she helped end a Republican measure prohibiting unions from deducting monthly dues from members’ paychecks.

She also was unafraid to criticize her own party at the local and federal levels. In February, she and Republican Miami state Sen. Ileana Garcia teamed up to lead the Senate in opposing President Joe Biden’s removal of FARC from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Russell, a 49-year-old woodworker and former yo-yo champion, won a seat on the Miami Commission in 2015 after leading a neighborhood push to remediate toxic soil in a nearby park. He’s now serving his second term and, like Taddeo in the Senate, he’s always been outnumbered by Republicans on the technically nonpartisan city panel.

Since his election seven years ago, Russell has prioritized two issues: affordable housing and environmental protection. Among his signature successes was the 2017 passage of the Miami Forever Bond, a $400 million set-aside for sea level rise and flood prevention, development of workforce and affordable housing, public safety, roadways and cultural facilities.

He cast the pivotal vote earlier this year approving a 99-year lease of the city’s largest greenspace to the owners of Miami’s Major League Soccer team for the development of a massive soccer stadium complex.

Russell fought for a requirement that the developers purchase land elsewhere upon which to develop replacement park space for the 70-plus acres their project would pave over. He also held off voting “yes” until the developers agreed to increase the minimum wage for workers there to $18 per hour.

Russell had been campaigning almost a year against Rubio when he switched races to avoid a Primary battle with U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

Internal polling then showed Russell within striking distance of Salazar, with just 2 percentage points separating them. But a poll in June, less than a month after Taddeo entered the CD 27 race, found Taddeo enjoying a double-digit edge in name recognition over Russell and a 36-percentage-point lead in favorability. Montalvo trailed far behind both with a 1-percentage-point level of support compared to 51% for Taddeo and 15% for Russell.

subsequent survey showed Taddeo neck-and-neck with Salazar in overall voter support.

Russell went on the attack in July. He targeted Taddeo’s environmental voting record regarding the sugar industry and utility giant Florida Power & Light, both of which indirectly donated large sums of money to her political committee.

Taddeo denied she is beholden to those special interests. She voted against an FPL-backed bill last Session that would have hampered solar energy expansion statewide. However, she also supported legislation beneficial to sugar companies that environmental groups argue would have favored agriculture to the detriment of other water uses and the environment, particularly the Everglades. Gov. Ron DeSantis ultimately vetoed the measure in June.

Taddeo and Russell have each accumulated ample endorsements this cycle. Both won nods from local unions and from currently and formerly elected local, state and federal officials. And while Taddeo holds an edge in organizational support, Russell is alone in being backed by the Miami Heat’s longest-tenured player.

Montalvo, 29, is a farmer, baker and gig worker. He ran on a platform similar to the one U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had in his 2016 and 2020 runs at the presidency, including prioritizing the passage of a “Green New Deal,” Medicare for all, racial justice and immigration reform.

He also called for further COVID-19 relief through “the boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history” and a “housing for all” plan that would “create millions of well-paying jobs, tackle the climate crisis, and give Floridians the dignity they deserve.”

By the end of the second quarter of 2022, Russell led fundraising among Democrats with $1.75 million. Of that, he had about $469,000 remaining after a healthy round of campaign spending.

Taddeo gathered $457,000 in just 24 days — an impressive haul, considering none of the funds she accumulated during her gubernatorial bid were transferable to her congressional campaign. She spent about $30,000 of that by June 30.

Montalvo raised a comparatively paltry $26,000, nearly half of which covered a qualifying fee with the Division of Elections.

The combined fundraising of Taddeo, Russell and Montalvo amounted to less than 60% of Salazar’s gains this cycle. Since she defeated Democrat Donna Shalala in a 2020 rematch of their first meeting two years earlier, Salazar amassed more than $3.7 million to hold onto her seat.

Polo trailed all in the field with just $18,500 raised since filing to run in January. He had $4,600 left as of July 1.

While painted by critics as a far-right-leaning lawmaker, Salazar has broken ranks with her GOP colleagues on several key issues, including joining just 13 other Republicans in June to vote for raising the legal age to buy assault rifle-style firearms from 18 to 21. She was the only Republican member of Congress from Florida to support the measure.

Salazar also took a big swing at overhauling the U.S. immigration system by sponsoring a 532-page reform package that would create a pathway to citizenship for migrants living in the country illegally.

Titled the Dignity Act, the measure would create multiple programs through which undocumented residents can stay and work in the U.S. while paying an annual fee. The money collected would fund retraining programs for U.S. workers and strengthening of the U.S. border.

Polo, who listed immigration reform as one of his campaign priorities, said the legislation is misleading to Latinos because it’s unobtainable.

CD 27 covers a large portion of Miami-Dade County, including the municipalities of Miami, Coral Gables, Cutler Bay, Key Biscayne, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, North Bay Village, South Miami, West Miami and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Coral Terrace, Fisher Island, Glenvar Heights, Kendall, Olympia Heights, Richmond Heights, Sunset, The Crossings, Three Lakes, Westchester and Westwood Lakes.

The district has alternated blue and red since 2019, when Ros-Lehtinen retired.

Analyses of CD 27, as redrawn by the DeSantis administration, show it is now safer than before for Republicans but still the most closely divided congressional district in Florida.

It’s also 74% Hispanic, the highest percentage for the voting age population anywhere in the state.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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