US News: 5 Candidates To Watch in 2018

US News: 5 Candidates To Watch in 2018

If there’s even a modest Democratic wave in 2018, it will begin off the sunny coast of Miami Beach, in Florida‘s 27th District – the bluest seat in the country currently occupied by a Republican.

The catch? That Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is retiring after serving nearly three decades in the House, creating an open seat that offers up the premier Democratic opportunity of the cycle.

At least seven Democrats have already filed to run in the southern Florida district that supported Clinton over Trump by 19 points – overt evidence of the likelihood of a pick-up.

But one candidate has a story that may fit this unique political moment.

As a circuit court judge, Mary Barzee Flores was tapped by former President Barack Obama for the federal bench in 2015, in what she calls the “greatest professional honor of my life.” But as he was ramping up his presidential campaign, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio put a hold on her nomination, stalling it indefinitely over concerns of her support for left-leaning groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Emily’s List, the powerful Democratic group that supports female politicians in favor of abortion rights.

Now, with the backing of Emily’s List, Flores, 55, is attempting to seize power via the ballot box, through a highly fractured Democratic primary field that includes a Miami city commissioner, a state representative and a former journalist.

In November, as the #MeToo movement gained steam across the country, Flores came forward with a story of her own in a campaign video that led to local interviews where she recalled the details. As a teenager, her boss at Pizza Hut groped her in a walk-in freezer after making sexually threatening remarks.

Since then, she says the public reaction has been powerful.

“Unfortunately, my story is not a remarkable one because it’s not unique. That’s also why it’s resonating. This is a shared experience,” Flores says.

The primary in this overwhelmingly Hispanic district will bend to the left, and Flores says she expects to win it.

“People I talk to every day say, ‘We’re taking back the House.’ And if we take back the House, we want it taken back by bold and progressive leaders,” she says.

By David Catanese, Senior Politics Writer

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