The teeming Democratic race to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is about to get more crowded: Mary Barzee Flores, a well-regarded local attorney and former circuit court judge, plans to launch her candidacy Wednesday for Florida’s congressional district.
Barzee Flores would become the sixth Democrat vying for the Democratic-leaning seat. Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said in April she wouldn’t seek reelection after 28 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district stretches down the southeast coast of Miami-Dade County, from North Bay Village to Cutler Bay; Hillary Clinton won it by 20 percentage points.
“I’ve always been interested in politics as a spectator sport, and as a spectator, it’s been national politics that have interested me,” Barzee Flores told the Miami Herald in an exclusive interview Tuesday, adding that she’s contemplated a candidacy for six to eight years. “And after this last election, I have come to believe that I have to do it — not just want to.”
She intends to run on a platform of keeping and improving the Affordable Care Act, fighting climate change, promoting public education, and advocating for military veterans. Her father served in World War II and her mother as a nurse in Korea.
Barzee Flores, 54, is a lifetime district resident who worked as an assistant federal public defender for 14 years before serving eight years as an elected judge on Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit. She’s been in private practice with the Miami law firm of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff and Sitterson since 2011.
Two years ago, Barzee Flores seemed destined for the federal bench, after then-President Barack Obama called her “highly qualified” and nominated her for a judgeship in February 2015. But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who had allowed Barzee Flores’ name to be forwarded to Obama, ultimately blocked her nomination to the lifetime appointment, a move her backers from both sides of the political aisle viewed as partisan.
Photo courtesy Barzee Flores campaign