When South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she was retiring a couple of weeks ago she not only marked the end of a successful political career, but she also started a buzz in the world of Miami-Dade politics.
When the speculation began over who would replace the first Cuban American elected to Congress the list of possible successors was as long as lines outside a Miami espresso cafe.
But while the list of possible candidates grows, state Sen. Anitere Flores, who was often mentioned on that list, made it clear on Wednesday she is not.
“Although it is rumored I will be running for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat,” said Sen. Flores, “I can assure you I’m not running and my focus is to finish out my Florida Senate term strong and serve the constituents of District 39.”
But, Flores is the exception in the race for Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional seat as more names are being mentioned.
Ros-Lehtinen managed to find success in a district that leans blue. Hillary Clinton won the district last November by more than 20 points, while Ros-Lehtinen defeated her Democratic challenger Scott Fuhrman by 10 points.
The question for Republicans is who can they run who will have as much appeal and success in a blue district as did Ros-Lehtinen?
The names that have been mentioned as possible candidates range from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, to state legislators, to local political figures.
What will ultimately transpire on the Republican side of the contest will likely hinge on the decision of Lopez-Cantera. If he does get into the race, he would likely be the candidate the party galvanizes around, causing a number of the other potential candidates to rethink their aspirations.
Republican Party strategist Rick Wilson says Lopez-Cantera is in the “listening mode” for now. He says if the lieutenant governor does decide to run it could influence the decision of other candidates. “It will clarify it with a lot of folks,” Wilson said.
But some candidates aren’t waiting on Lopez-Cantera to reach a decision. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro officially filed his paperwork Wednesday becoming the first major Republican to enter the race.
The list of possible GOP candidates also includes the names of a couple of state lawmakers: Sen. Rene Garcia, and Representative Jeanette Nunez.
Former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado is also considered a possible candidate.
There is just as much speculation on the Democratic side of the contest.
It’s likely Fuhrman will take another shot at the congressional seat and many believe he will once again be his party’s nominee.
But, that’s not keeping other Democrats from getting into the fray.
State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez announced his intentions to run for the seat on Tuesday.
Two additional names surfaced Wednesday for the Democrats. State Rep. David Richardson said he is exploring the possibility of running. Meanwhile, a top Latin American attorney, Francisco Cerezo, is reportedly considering making a bid for the Democratic nomination after being urged by Obama Democrats to run for the seat.
For now, the jockeying continues among potential candidates who are weighing their odds and determining if they have what it takes to do what no one else has been able to do since 1989–win the congressional seat held by Illeana Ros-Lehtinen.