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Annette Taddeo wins Democratic primary for Florida's 27th, prepares to face off with Republican Salazar

Annette Taddeo victory party
Daniel Rivero
/
WLRN
Annette Taddeo speaks at a primary victory party for Florida's 27th Congressional District, on August 23, 2022. She asked her mother to stand for recognition while giving her speech.

The first words out of Annette Taddeo's mouth were in Spanish, and over the next fifteen minutes, she broke into it time and time again, reflecting the Spanglish nature of her campaign.

"Gracias," she said. "Gracias, Miami."

Taddeo, a Florida State Senator from Miami, was gathered with roaring supporters at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club on Tuesday to celebrate her victory in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, a victory that she promises is one battle in a long fight to save democracy in the U.S.

The win sets Taddeo up for a November election against incumbent Republican congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, a fight her supporters say she can win.

"My dad taught me how to be a fighter. A fighter for the causes that are just. And right now, this fight is a just cause. Because we are fighting for Florida, we are fighting for our kids and we are fighting for our country and we are fighting for democracy," Taddeo said in her victory speech. "I know this fight won't be easy — not as easy as this primary was."

Taddeo carried nearly 68 percent of the votes, more than double her closest challenger Ken Russell, a City of Miami commissioner, according to state election data released Tuesday night. Fellow Democratic challenger Angel Montalvo won just over 6 percent of votes.

She told the crowd that Russell called and offered his concession shortly before she came on stage.

Bad Bunny and Cardi B played on the speakers and the scene turned into a party shortly after the results started to come out. The lead was so large few doubted her victory on primary night, and many were already talking of November.

"I'm really looking forward to her coming out of the primary and getting ready to go against Maria Elvira Salazar. Right now, we're represented by someone that has voted against everything we need in our county," said Miami-Dade commissioner Eileen Higgins, particularly citing Salazar's votes against a major infrastructure bill that could bring millions to the county. "It's time we have someone representing my district that really cares about the people that live in it."

Florida’s 27th Congressional District has in years past been considered an extremely competitive seat. Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represented the area from 1989 to 2019, when she retired, including a redistricting in 2012 that created the 27th District itself. Democrat Donna Shalala won the seat in 2018, only to be ousted by current Republican congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar in 2020.

Ticket splitting has long been the norm in the district, dating back to Ros-Lehtinen’s considerable support among Democrats and Independents. In 2020 it was one of only sixteen districts across the country that split tickets, voting for one party for congress and another for president, according to FiveThirtyEight. President Joe Biden won the district by more than three percentage points in 2020, while voters simultaneously sent a Republican to Congress.

The lines for the district have slightly been redrawn with redistricting, losing Democratic-leaning Miami Beach. But most poll watchers still place the seat as a toss-up between the two major parties.

Taddeo has pitched herself as being a bridge builder in the community, pushing for popular Democratic policies while being in tun to conservative skepticism of big government programs.

As a teenager in Colombia, Taddeo’s father was kidnapped by the Marxist guerilla terrorist group the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. Her father was an American citizen giving her American citizenship by birth, and she fled Colombia to the U.S. Taddeo has leaned on that first-hand experience with Marxists to gain support in a heavily Cuban-American district, while also pushing for progressive policies.

"Annette has a very reasonable and clear path to victory just by telling her story. She is unassailable, she is bulletproof when it comes to all the usual 'comunista' and 'socialista' — all that nonsense is completely neutralized with a candidate like Annette," said filmmaker and political commentator Billy Corben.

In her victory speech, Taddeo expressed anger and frustration about the loss of a woman's right to abortion and a lack of movement on healthcare reforms that she promised to make a priority. She underscored her life experience to explain why she supports banning assault-style firearms, something she repeatedly sponsored bills for in the Florida Senate.

"I fled terrorism, and I cannot believe that our kids are living through terrorism right now, every day they go to school. So this fight is for my daughter and for all the kids who deserve to go to school safe," Taddeo said.

In 2017, Taddeo successfully flipped a Republican seat in the Florida Senate to Democrats during a special election.

"I know a lot of folks, even Republicans, that love Annette Taddeo, NPAs [non-party affiliated voters] that love Annette Taddeo. She has so much cross-party appeal," said Daniella Ferrera, a Cuban-American volunteer on the campaign and a former Republican herself.

Taddeo told WLRN that her past support across party lines is a strong indicator that she can pull off a victory in November.

"It's going to take someone like me who can bring together a coalition of voters to win in a difficult seat like I've done," Taddeo said. "I'm someone who brings people together rather than divide, that actually talks about solutions, votes for solutions, comes up with solutions, rather than just complaining."

In her current run for Congress, Taddeo has received endorsements from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine-Cava, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, as well as former Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli and former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner.

Congresswoman Salazar handily won her Republican primary election against challenger Frank Polo, carrying more than 80 percent of the vote.

The Republican National Committee put out a statement on Tuesday night congratulating congressional and Senate primary winners for the party, but it did not mention Salazar by name.

“Congratulations to Governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Marco Rubio, and the entirety of the GOP ticket in the Sunshine State. Republicans are committed to keeping Florida the state for freedom and opportunity, all the while standing up to the Democrats’ woke, anti-family agenda," Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The 27th Congressional District is majority Latino, with a majority of residents who were born in a foreign country, according to Census data. It stretches from Little Havana through the heavily Cuban “Saguesera” area of Southwestern Miami-Dade, the affluent coastal suburbs of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Coral Gables and into working-class areas of Kendall.

Xiani Cox, an 18-year-old campaign volunteer, said he was grateful to cast his first ever vote for Taddeo and that he knows she can win.

"I like that she supports women's rights, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights," said Cox. "She gets it."

Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.