Florida Democrats hoping to regain control of the state Senate got a boost Wednesday when Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez announced he was dropping out of the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
Rodriguez says he decided to get out of the crowded race for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in an effort to help Senate Democrats in this year’s election. By staying in his current position, Rodriguez allows his party to spend more campaign money on other swing Senate races that the Democrats think they can win this year and not have to spend money defending Rodriguez’s seat. In 2016, the party spent $4 million to help Rodriguez win the seat.
He told Politico Wednesday that his decision to stay in the Senate gives his party the best chance it has had in two decades to win back the Senate.
“It looks like there’s huge momentum on the Democratic side. The data is there. And we’re in a really historic position in the Florida Senate,” Rodriguez told POLITICO.
Republicans currently hold a 24-16 margin over Democrats in the Senate. But with Democrats expecting a “blue wave” in this year’s election, they are hoping to pick up a couple of seats this year with the chance of retaking the Senate in 2020.
“That is why today I reaffirm to constituents here in District 37 that I will “ to serve as their State Senator and battle the status quo of Tallahassee politics,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “To do this I will formally end my candidacy for Congress. Instead our efforts will focus on helping elect progressive allies here in Miami-Dade and all over Florida that can bring that desperately needed action to Tallahassee.”
Rodriguez’ decision leaves six Democrats in the race for the 27th Congressional District seat: Mary Barzee Flores, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson, Donna Shalala, and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. Ken Russell decided to withdraw from the contest earlier Wednesday.