A Florida Democrat in the state Senate says he will run for the Miami-area U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez (D) on Tuesday said he plans to run in 2018 in Florida’s 27th District, according to the Miami Herald.

Ros-Lehtinen announced late last month that she would not seek reelection after representing the Miami-area district in Congress since 1989.

“It’s a really important time to run,” Rodríguez told the Herald in a Tuesday interview. “It’s a time when we’re trying to define what country we are, and the character of our democracy.”


Rodríguez, 38, said he talked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about his campaign. He’s a Cuban-American lawyer and has served in Florida’s Statehouse since 2012.

But he enters a crowded Democratic field that already has four declared candidates as well as others showing interest in a campaign.

The declared candidates include Scott Fuhrman, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in 2016; Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez; University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn; and Mark Anthony Person, according to the Herald. One Republican has filed, though another intends to run.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE carried the district by more than 20 points last year, and Ros-Lehtinen was considered a top Democratic target in the 2018 midterm elections.

Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement has given Democrats a prime opportunity to flip a seat in 2018, and it prompted election handicappers like Sabato’s Crystal Ball to change the rating of that district from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat.”

Democrats have an uphill battle in 2018, needing to flip at least 24 seats if they want to take back the House majority. 

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