With Boost From Hispanic Voters, Republicans Flip Two House Seats in Florida

Dem Rep. Donna Shalala comes up short

Hillary Clinton and Donna Shalala, June 18, 2018 / Getty Images
• November 4, 2020 1:05 pm

Florida Republicans enjoyed down-ballot success in Tuesday's election, bolstered by Hispanic support and President Donald Trump's victory in the state.

Ex-firefighter Carlos Gimenez and journalist Maria Elvira Salazar defeated Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D.) and Donna Shalala (D.), respectively, in Florida's two southernmost districts. The two will join a growing Florida Republican delegation buoyed by massive turnout from a coalition of Venezuelan, Cuban, and Puerto Rican voters.

A former president of the Clinton Foundation, Shalala served her South Florida district for one term before Salazar ousted her by a margin of nearly 3 points. Shalala suffered on the campaign trail from an inability to distance herself from the socialist wing of her party, which she decried on multiple occasions. Shalala herself acknowledged the presence of socialism within the Democratic Party’s coalition.

Fellow freshman congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell fell to Gimenez 52-48. The representative suffered from associations with radical Democrats, once inviting an "#AbolishICE" advocate to serve as a panelist during a town hall she hosted. Mucarsel-Powell also drew scrutiny for her husband’s ties to a Ukrainian oligarch. The oligarch, who has faced criminal allegations of embezzlement, bribery, and murder, paid Mucarsel-Powell’s husband hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal work through his businesses.

The two Republicans join Congress after a groundswell of Republican support in South Florida, an area where the Trump campaign focused heavily in the final days of the campaign. President Trump was able to make inroads in Democratic strongholds in the Sunshine State. As of Wednesday morning, he trailed former vice president Joe Biden 53-46 in Miami-Dade County, which he lost by 30 points in 2016. With a 51-48 lead over Biden in a state he won with only 48 percent of the vote in 2016, the president's statewide numbers have improved from four years ago.