Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has represented Miami in Congress since 1989, will not seek reelection in 2018, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.
“It's been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper. “We just said, ‘It's time to take a new step.’”
In the interview, the centrist Republican maintained that she is not leaving Congress due to disagreements with the Trump administration and the more conservative bloc of her party.
“I've served under all kinds of different dynamics in all these years that I've been in office here,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Though I don't agree with many, if not most, positions of President Trump.”
But, she insisted to the Miami Herald that “it's not been part of the calculation of retiring.”
The congresswoman said she believes she would win reelection in 2018, even though Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE carried her district last year by more than 20 points over President Trump – Clinton’s largest margin in any GOP-held seat, the Miami Herald said.
The 64-year-old won reelection to Florida’s 27th congressional district in November by 10 points, her closest race in years. She spent $3.4 million to defeat Democratic challenger Scott Fuhrman in that race, but told the paper that she believes she’d win again if she ran.
“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said, predicting she would have raised at least $2.5 million for her next campaign.
“It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected — but it's not about getting elected," she added.
With the GOP in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress, it “gives me an opportunity to stand out more and have people realize that I'm a moderate,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami Herald.
The Florida Republican has been an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQ community.
And she also believes that Dreamers, children brought to America illegally by their parents, should be able to stay in the United States -- putting her at odds with many in her party who support President Trump's push to deport undocumented immigrants.
Ros-Lehtinen was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress and the first Hispanic woman elected.
Her retirement gives Democrats the opportunity to pick up another seat as they seek to flip districts in 2018. At least one group analyzing the parties' chances in each race changed its rating based on the news, moving the district from "likely Republican" to "leans Democrat."
RATINGS CHANGE: FL-27 goes from Likely R all the way to Leans D now that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) is retiring— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) April 30, 2017
National Democrats have been recruiting candidates and three so far have declared they’ll run – Fuhrman, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn.
The Miami Herald predicts more will announce bids now that the incumbent is out of the race.
“It'll be a good, hard-fought fight, because it’s an even-keeled district,” Ros-Lehtinen said, telling her hometown paper she has “no idea who will run.”
Her colleagues took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to react to the news.
Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE (@marcorubio) April 30, 2017
26 years ago this summer I worked as intern with @RosLehtinen She has served our community, state & country well. Godspeed & finish strong— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 30, 2017
Congresswoman @RosLehtinen has fought hard for FL families throughout her service in D.C. Her strong leadership will be greatly missed!— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) April 30, 2017