Annette Taddeo, Black community leaders rebuke María Elvira Salazar for socialist attack ad
Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo speaks with community leaders from the unincorporated Richmond Heights neighborhood against a Republican attack ad portraying her as a socialist. Image via Jesse Scheckner.

Annette Taddeo Second Baptist Church -- Jesse Scheckner
‘What it says to me is that the Congresswoman can’t run on her record for the last two years, so she has to resort to false accusations.’

Sen. Annette Taddeo, Black faith leaders and members of the South Dade NAACP are rebuking Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar over a “horrendous” attack ad accusing Taddeo of rubbing elbows with Democratic socialists at a community forum more than four years ago.

Salazar would know the accusation was untrue, they said Friday, if she ever bothered to visit the predominantly Black community of Richmond Heights and the house of worship, Second Baptist Church, where the forum took place.

“To suggest in a commercial that meetings held at this community, in this church, are meetings of socialists is not just an insult to me; it’s an insult to this community and all that they stand for,” said Taddeo, who is running to unseat Salazar on Nov. 8.

“We are in a very divisive time in our country. We have a lot of hatred, and hatred in politics is dangerous. We also have a lot of lies. And what it says to me is that the Congresswoman can’t run on her record for the last two years, so she has to resort to false accusations.”

The video ad in question began airing in mid-October. It paints Taddeo as a socialist, overlaying pictures of her with communist iconography and images of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and the late Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.

The ad is part of a $1.7 million reservation in English- and Spanish-language airtime the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) made to help Salazar keep her seat representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The video says Taddeo was “spotted huddling with the Miami chapter of a socialist group that supports the Cuban communist regime” and “joined them to rally for socialist-style spending that could bankrupt the country.”

Marxist … or misleading?

The “huddling” to which the ad refers was an April 22, 2018, panel discussion on expanding state and federal health care access. Taddeo participated alongside several other Democrats and groups, including the Miami chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

In a post to Facebook the same day, the Miami DSA claimed to have hosted the event. Taddeo’s official Facebook account “liked” the post, which described the event as being part of the “Democratic Socialists for Medicaid for All National Day of Action.”

The image Salazar’s ad used of Taddeo at the event is identical to the one the Miami DSA used in its Facebook post. A screenshot of the post appears on the group’s page.

Annette Taddeo speaking in front of a Miami Democratic Socialists of America banner at the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights on April 22, 2018. She and numerous community leaders in the neighborhood maintain the group participated in, but did not host, the event. Image via Facebook.

A Miami New Times report, published April 24, 2018, said the Miami DSA “staged” the event but “didn’t talk much about socialism or try to recruit people to the larger cause.” Instead, participants discussed how to expand and promote state and federal health care access.

It’s an issue Taddeo has long supported. She repeatedly backed bills in the Legislature to help close Florida’s “coverage gap” by increasing Medicaid support.

She told reporters Friday she “never would have participated” in the event if she believed Democratic socialists organized the event.

“They were present — that is active — but … everyone is invited,” she said.

A spokesperson from Taddeo’s campaign later elaborated.

“The state Senator attended a meeting that was organized by multiple groups and was open to everyone, and as she has always done in her official capacity, she is going to show up and answer questions directly from her constituents,” he said. “To imply she was campaigning to participate in some sort of socialist gathering is just ludicrous from the María Elvira campaign.”

Community pushback

Pastor Alphonso Jackson said the 2018 event was one of many Second Baptist and other churches have hosted over the years. They’re open forums for “all political parties,” not just the Miami DSA, which he said took part in, but did not host, the event.

“Everyone has an opportunity to come and to share and to state their political views,” he said.

Jackson said he and faith leaders from other area churches have never seen Salazar at a forum.

“I’ve talked to other pastors,” he said. “I saw her on television. We don’t know her personally, but she has been invited.”

Taddeo, on the other hand, is a familiar face in the community, said Pastor Anthony Reed of The Purple Church, a Methodist institution in Richmond Heights situated a half-mile from Second Baptist.

He accused the Salazar campaign of deliberately trying to mislead voters into believing Taddeo and the Richmond Heights community are socialist.

“We know it’s election time and a lot of people who lack integrity are going to hit below the belt,” he said. “Whatever type of meeting was projected in the commercial, it was not what was said. The intent was not as the Congresswoman laid it out.”

Joining Taddeo, Jackson and Reed on the front steps of Second Baptist Church were pastors Robert Brooks of St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church, Dawn Carey of Holiness Church of Florida, Ronald Smith Sr. of Community Bible Baptist Church and Michael Stiles of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, among others.

Harold Ford, First Vice President of the South Dade NAACP, took part in the press conference too, as did the group’s Third Vice President, Tamika Bennett.

Democratic candidate Janelle Perez, who is running for Senate District 38, attended the press conference with Taddeo but did not speak during the presser.

Ford, whose organization partners with the churches to hold the forums, called Salazar’s ad “inexcusable.”

We ask those (responsible) to retract,” he said. “We’re demanding an apology.”


Taddeo and Salazar share some commonalities. Both have roots in Latin American countries overrun by Castro-backed Marxist oppressors. Both have long lived in Miami-Dade, where each cultivated successful personal and political careers.

But while Salazar was born in Miami to Cuban expatriates, Taddeo spent her first 17 years in Colombia until she fled to America after terrorists kidnapped her father. And while Taddeo has fought for exemptions to Florida’s 15-week abortion ban in cases of rape and incest, Salazar voted against such exemptions and holds an “A” rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

But Salazar’s camp isn’t alone in lobbing the dreaded “s-word” at her opponent. Less than a month before the Salazar video ran, Taddeo’s campaign launched what it described as its first six-figure ad buy in the race. It too intimated Salazar is a socialist, taking aim at Salazar’s support of abortion restrictions as condoning totalitarian mandates.

“MAGA Republican María Salazar supports government control over women’s health care decisions, even in cases of rape or incest,” Taddeo said in the video, alluding to Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. “This election will determine if we remain a beacon of freedom or we become a socialist dictatorship.”

The homestretch

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 former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retired.

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

Republicans hold a nearly 3,000 voter registration advantage there, with 148,204 GOP voters compared to 145,613 Democrats. There are also nearly 142,000 voters with no party affiliation, according to recent L2 voter data.

The district is 74% Hispanic, the highest percentage for the voting age population anywhere in the state.

Taddeo nearly lapped Salazar in spending in the 57 days leading up to Oct. 1 as the two near Election Day.  Salazar still has far more cash in reserve.

Recent polling suggests Salazar holds a tenuous lead in the race among likely CD 27 voters. An Oct. 9-11 poll by Republican firm Cygnal, commissioned by a super PAC supporting Salazar, and an internal survey for Taddeo’s campaign conducted Oct. 3-5 found the two candidates are statistically tied.

The website FiveThirtyEight offers a less sunny outlook for the challenger. As of Friday, the site gave Taddeo a 10% chance of winning based on 40,000 simulations of the election.

Early voting runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.

Florida Politics reached out to Salazar’s campaign for comment but received none by press time. This story will be updated upon receipt of one.

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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