Florida Democrats entered the 2020 election cycle aiming to replicate 2018 midterm gains when they flipped two seats and trimmed Republicans’ congressional delegation majority to 14-13.
Instead, Republicans added two additional U.S. representatives to its stable Tuesday to push their majority in Florida’s congressional delegation to 16-11.
Not only did the GOP reclaim the congressional seat it lost in 2018, but it upset another Democratic incumbent in two south Florida districts where Republican voters rallied late and Democrats failed to garner targeted turnouts from deep blue precincts.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez defeated first-term incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in their 26th Congressional District election, and Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar upset Democrat incumbent Donna Shalala in their 27th Congressional District race.
In one of the nation’s closest-watched congressional races, Giménez had a 12,050-vote lead with 93 percent of the vote tallied by 11 p.m., leading Mucarsel-Powell, 52% to 48%.
Giménez, who was outspent $6.3 million to $2 million in a race the National Democratic Committee invested heavily in and was booed by President Donald Trump supporters during a rally Sunday, declared himself the victor at 9:30 p.m.
“My opponent was one of the most partisan members of Congress, I want to be bipartisan. We need to work together. This country needs to work together because we have threats from outside and inside, and for us to keep fighting, it makes no sense whatsoever,” Gimenez told supporters, “and so I’m gonna roll up my sleeves, and I’m gonna work with our colleagues in Congress to bring solutions, to bring results to the people of Miami-Dade County and also the people of this country.”
Republicans have been aiming to retake the seat since Mucarsel-Powell, an associate medical school dean at Florida International University who’d never run for office before, defeated incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2018.
Salazar, a Spanish-language TV newscaster, defeated Shalala in a rematch of their 2018 race.
With 340,537 votes counted, Salazar had a 9,500-vote lead, a 51.41% to 48.6% advantage over Shalala, a former secretary of Health & Human Services under the Clinton administration.
“I will not be silenced,” Salazar said in a speech to supporters declaring victory about 10 p.m. “I will not cower to the mob and when faced with the so-called Democratic socialists. I will tell them that we have seen the dogma in action already and it doesn’t work.”
Shalala did not concede defeat before Salazar declared victory, even though The Associated Press called the race for Salazar just before 11 p.m.
“We are going to wait it out. We don’t know how long that will take,” Shalala campaign manager Raul Martinez said. “We believe it will take a long time and we will act accordingly. Once we have a definitive answer, what the results look like, we will send out a statement and make ourselves available to you.”
Elsewhere, most incumbents, including Democrats Charlie Crist, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kathy Castor, Val Demings and Alcee Hastings, and Republicans John Rutherford, Brian Mast, Daniel Webster, Vern Buchanan, Matt Gaetz and Bill Posey, all won re-election handily.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Crist, once a Republican Florida governor, was re-elected to a third term in the 13th Congressional District, which spans the Tampa Bay area. With 404,052 votes counted at 10:30 p.m., Crist had received 214,240 votes, or 53% of the votes, to GOP challenger Anna Paulina Luna, who had 189,812 votes, or 47% of the tally.