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Republican Salazar seeks rematch with Shalala in key Miami House district

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar announced her candidacy for Florida’s 27th Congressional District on Thursday, possibly setting up a rematch against Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Florida Democrat breaks down loss: 'It's not just about socialism' GOP sees path to House majority in 2022 MORE (D) in one of 2018’s most widely watched House races.

Salazar lost to Shalala by 6 points last year in the Miami-area district, which Democrats were able to flip after the retirement of former Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Trump-backed Republican unseats Shalala in Miami House race MORE (R). Her announcement could set up a rematch to again test the weight of a candidate’s ethnicity in a district in which nearly 60 percent of registered voters are Hispanic.  

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Salazar highlighted her heritage in her announcement, underlining her parents fleeing Cuba for the U.S. and using their story as a point of attack against “extreme Washington liberals” who she says are advocating socialist policies.

“We must not be silent. We must not remain on the sidelines while many on the left want to implement in this country the failed socialist system that brought misery, oppression, and exile to many of our countries,” she said in her announcement video. 

“I will fight to preserve and protect the freedom for which my parents were willing to give up everything.” 

Salazar’s name recognition is also boosted by her time as a high-profile television journalist. She traveled to Central America and interviewed world leaders including President Clinton, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and most recently Juan Guiadó, Venezuela’s opposition leader. 

“My experiences in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras convinced me that I needed a deeper understanding of the political forces at play in that region, forces that until today continue to haunt our Cuban and Central American brethren,” she said. 

Shalala's campaign said in a statement that the Florida Democrat is focused on serving her constituents and continue building bipartisan relationships.

“There will be a time for political debates next year, today Congresswoman Donna Shalala is focused on serving her constituents," the campaign said in a statement to The Hill. "At the dozen Town Halls she has hosted, Congresswoman Shalala’s solutions based leadership and ability to forge relationships across the aisle are a welcomed relief from the wild rhetoric of today's politics.”

The 2018 race represented a test not only of shifting demographics in Miami-Dade politics but also of Democratic strength in the district. Ros-Lehtinen had represented the district since 1989 before retiring, though it included more friendly territory for Democrats after court-ordered redistricting in 2015. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to name longtime aide Blinken as secretary of State: report Understanding mixed results in Pennsylvania key to future elections What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE carried the district in 2016 by roughly 19 points.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “likely Democratic.”