After weeks of intra-party turmoil, Democrats appear to have settled on a candidate to run against Republican Congressman David Rivera: Colombian-born businesswoman Gloria Romero Roses.
Roses announced her intention to run in a statement released Monday by the Florida Democratic Party -- a sign that she has the backing of the Democratic establishment, which has been in disarray over how to challenge Rivera. State Rep. Luis Garcia of Miami dropped out of the race last week after accusing national Democrats of double-crossing him and recruiting other candidates. (Garcia is now running for Miami-Dade County Commission.)
Democrats initially tried to recruit former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas to run instead of Garcia. Once it became clear that he was leaning against a campaign, they looked elsewhere -- including to Roses, as we reported last week.
A political newcomer, Roses has never before run for office. She manages Nexus Homes, a business that partners investors with assisted-living operators in Florida. She has also worked in real estate.
It is clear from the statement launching her campaign that Roses plans to play up her business experience and, not surprisingly, attack Rivera for the cloud of investigations into his personal and campaign finances that has followed him since before he was first elected in 2010, though a state probe has since stalled.
"As a real estate professional, I have seen the boom-bust cycle of our local economy that comes from our reliance on construction and housing to be the economic engine," she said in the statement. "Florida's growth has been stagnant coming out of this downturn in part because Congressman David Rivera has been too focused on defending himself in his ongoing scandals rather than fighting for jobs and strengthening our small businesses."
National Democrats view Rivera, who is Cuban-American, as vulnerable, his campaign fundraising hobbled by the investigations against him. Roses' statement included a quote from Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux calling Rivera "corrupt."
But the rookie Roses will likely face a tough race against the incumbent Rivera, a once-formidable fundraiser who has been quietly campaigning in the new Congressional District 26. Following once-a-decade redistricting, the district now stretches from Southwest Miami-Dade to Key West.
Unless they move, neither Rivera nor Roses would live within the district's boundaries (nor would they be required to; members of Congress do not have to live in the districts they represent). But while Roses lives in Southwest Ranches, Rivera lives in the existing district and has represented portions of Miami-Dade for a decade since he was first elected to the Florida House.
Rivera's campaign responded to a request for comment regarding the announcement with a statement of its own:
"Congressman Rivera is completely focused on doing the job the voters elected him to do. Throughout his first term in Congress, he has worked on measures to improve the economy, create jobs and bring fiscal responsibility back to Washington. Once the redistricting process is over, and Democrats have finally settled on choosing a candidate, there will be more than enough time this Fall to deal with their false and negative campaign tactics. Until then, Congressman Rivera will remain focused on the issues that matter to his constituents, particularly jobs and the economy."
"For example, Congressman Rivera is pleased he was able to play a leading role in advocating for passage of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Passage of this trade agreement was one of the most important commitments Congressman Rivera made during his 2010 campaign. This agreement, which was blocked by House Democrats for years, represents thousands of jobs for his community and for America, as well as a tangible means to improve our economy. Congressman Rivera will continue to focus on similar legislative efforts to improve the economy, create jobs and balance the federal budget."
The full press release announcing Roses' campaign is below: