Carlos Gimenez wins congressional primary, along with Miami-Dade, Broward incumbents

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez won his Republican primary on Tuesday, setting up a highly anticipated general election contest with incumbent Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Gimenez, 66, defeated Miami-Dade firefighter Omar Blanco in the primary. Blanco, a political novice, found it hard to raise money and gain traction once President Donald Trump endorsed Gimenez hours after Gimenez officially entered the race in January.

Gimenez has held elected office since 2005 but has never run for a partisan seat. He’ll now face Mucarsel-Powell, 49, a prolific fundraiser, in the general election Nov. 3, and both parties have invested millions of dollars in TV ads. Mucarsel-Powell, who flipped the seat from Republican to Democratic when she won two years ago, did not face a primary challenge.

“Tonight, voters in Florida’s 26th Congressional District honored me with their vote and, more importantly, their confidence,” Gimenez said in a statement. “The voters have a clear choice: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, one of the most divisive members of Congress who has spent her time focused on ways to divide our community, and myself, a true public servant.”

While Trump lost Florida’s 26th Congressional District in 2016 by more than 16 points to Hillary Clinton, Republicans say the president’s standing with Hispanic voters, and Cuban voters in particular, has improved in the last four years. They’re also banking on Gimenez winning over at least some voters who will also be supporting presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, based on Gimenez’s two terms as mayor of Miami-Dade, a non-partisan position.

Mucarsel-Powell has been critical of Gimenez’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic for months, arguing that he opened Miami-Dade County too quickly. The county has been the leading hot spot for infection in the state. Gimenez has also been attacked by conservative Republicans and business owners when he reinstituted shutdowns after COVID-19 case counts soared in July.

Mucarsel-Powell said her campaign has a “lot of energy” and that Gimenez’s lack of leadership during the pandemic will hurt him with voters.

“I think that the community here understands from the day I took office in 2019 that I have been working for my district,” Mucarsel-Powell said in an interview. “I think it’s going to be very tough for Carlos explain why he had a complete failure in managing the pandemic. You’ve seen all the local mayors condemn him in the way he has led during this pandemic.”

The 26th district includes most of western and southern Miami-Dade County, along with the Florida Keys.

Blanco said he was proud of his campaign in a contest with one of Miami’s most well-known politicians.

“I’m not sad about the results,” Blanco said. “This has been a phenomenal experience and this is what this election process is all about. As much as I’d rather be the person on the 60 percent side of it, I have no regrets.”

Gimenez’s victory was one of eight congressional primaries in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties held on Tuesday. Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is already assured of another term in Congress after no one ran against him.

Salazar wins Florida 27 GOP primary

In the Republican primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which includes most of coastal Miami-Dade County and parts of the city of Miami, former journalist Maria Elvira Salazar easily defeated Raymond Molina and Juan Fiol for the GOP nomination.

Salazar will face Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala in the general election The contest will be a rematch of the 2018 election, which Shalala won by six percentage points in a district that favors Democrats.

“Tonight’s results are incredibly humbling, and I am thankful for all the tremendous support,” Salazar said in a text message. “It is time for our community to once again have a voice in Congress, a voice that has been absent and silent with Congresswoman Donna Shalala.”

Though Salazar has outraised Shalala in three of the last four fundraising quarters, the district is one that Trump lost by more than 19 percentage points in 2016.

Frederica Wilson wins Democratic primary in Florida 24

Longtime Miami Rep. Frederica Wilson won the Democratic primary in Florida’s 24th Congressional District, all but assuring her a fifth term in Congress in the heavily Democratic district.

Wilson defeated Ricardo De La Fuente, a perennial candidate who has run for Congress in multiple states, and Sakinah Lee Lehtola in the Democratic primary for a majority Black seat in northern Miami-Dade County and southern Broward County. Wilson will face GOP candidate Lavern Spicer and independent candidate Christine Alexandria Olivo along with write-in candidates Howard Knepper and Hector Rivera in the general election.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz fends off challenger in Florida 23

Broward Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated lawyer Jen Perelman in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, likely setting up the incumbent for a ninth term in Congress in the Democratic-leaning district, which stretches from Weston across Broward County before snaking into Northeast Miami-Dade County.

“Today, District 23 voters overwhelmingly said they want a strong, pragmatic progressive to fight for them in Washington,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “And that’s just what I’ll keep doing for you in Congress.”

Perelman challenged Wasserman Schultz from the left and received the endorsement of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, but she was unable to match Wasserman Schultz in fundraising. Progressive groups that have buoyed left-leaning Democrats against incumbents in primary challenges throughout the country stayed out of the race.

“This was always a long shot. Incumbents win. This is what happens,” Perelman said on Facebook Live.

Wasserman Schultz will face write-in candidates Demetrius “DB” Fugate and Jeff Olson in the general election along with a to-be-determined GOP challenger. The GOP primary between Carla Spalding and Michael Kroske was too close to call late Tuesday.

Ted Deutch will face winner of Republican primary in Florida 22

Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch was unopposed in Tuesday’s primary, but he will face the winner of a four-way GOP primary for the Democratic-leaning seat that includes portions of Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Fran Flynn, Jessica “Jessi” Melton, James “Jim” Pruden and Darlene Swaffar competed in the Republican primary. Pruden had a lead in Tuesday night’s early returns, though the election was too close to call. Deutch has been in Congress since 2010.

Alcee Hastings wins Democratic primary in Florida 20

Longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings defeated Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District, likely setting up Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress for a 15th term in office. Hastings, 83, defeated Cherfilus-McCormick for a second consecutive election.

Hastings will face Republicans Greg Musselwhite or Vic DeGrammont in the general election. Musselwhite had a slight lead on Tuesday night, but the race was too close to call.

Florida’s 20th District includes majority Black portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and is heavily Democratic.