Democratic challenger Annette Taddeo (L) and Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) Photo: Manny Hernandez/Getty Images; Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A Democratic challenger in a crucial situation South Florida American Home Race accuses his Republican adversary of embrace socialism pushing to ban books and abortion – reversing the script of an attack usually directed at his own party.
Why is it important: Perceptions of a soft or sympathetic stance toward socialism have an additional impact in Florida, an increasingly red-leaning state where Cuban and Venezuelan expatriate communities represent a significant electoral bloc.
What is happening: Freshman GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) is still favored to win in Florida’s 27th congressional district, but is on the defensive after faux pasexaggerations and accusations of hypocrisy led to a wave of polls for his Democratic opponent, State Senator Annette Taddeo.
- “This election will determine whether we remain a beacon of freedom or whether we become a socialist dictatorship,” Taddeo said in an announcement last monthin which she cites her family’s escape from the Marxist guerrillas in Colombia.
- The race between two Hispanic women is a potential case study for Democrats seeking to counter a perennial GOP message that has eroded the party’s standing in Florida.
The image: The GOP’s Congressional Leadership Fund spent $2 million on television advertising to defend the seat, making it one of the most expensive super PAC bookings. The Bake the political report recently moved the race from “probable Republican” to “skinny Republican”.
Enlarge: Salazar, the daughter of Cuban exiles and a former journalist, was recently ridiculed on social media for wrongly claim in an interview with Fox News that she is “one of the founders of Spanish television, Univision and Telemundo”.
- Colombian-born Taddeo, a moderate Democrat, also seized on an interview Salazar conducted with late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in which the Republican called Castro a “commander.”
- Taddeo received weak support from National Democrats, but recently won the Al Cárdenas endorsementformer chairman of the Florida Republican Party and Cuban-American activist.
What they say : “When you tell a woman what she can and cannot do, and she has to ask permission from the government…that’s not freedom,” Taddeo told Axios attacking the anti-abortion stance by Salazar.
- Banning books, even if you don’t agree with the content, is what communist regimes in Cuba and the former Soviet Union did — and it’s something Salazar embraces, said said Taddeo.
- Taddeo said his counter-offensive against socialism should be used as an example for Democrats.
Reality check: Salazar said little about Florida school boards banning books about people of color and LGBTQ issues. The state has the second highest number school-related book bans in the country, according to an analysis published by PEN America.
Between the lines: The race remains Salazar’s to lose thanks to the broader Republican-friendly climate in Florida, according to Sean D. Foreman, a Barry University political science professor who lives in the district.
- “I think what’s happening in this district is close on paper. It’s really the only race possible after the recent redistricting in Florida.”
- Linking Salazar to socialism has gained momentum in a neighborhood that includes Miami’s historic Cuban-American neighborhood in Little Havana, but that may not be enough to combat the GOP tide, Foreman said.
- The CLF recently organized a 30 second ad in the Miami area, saying Taddeo supports “socialist-style spending that could bankrupt the country.”
Be smart: The neighborhood, once represented by moderate Cuban-American Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has seen a surge of Puerto Rican and Colombian American residents who could play a decisive role in this swing neighborhood.