Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is running for Congress.
Barreiro told the Miami Herald on Friday he plans to seek Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat next year, now that she is retiring. He is the first big-name Republican to announce a candidacy.
"I am definitely running," Barreiro said, adding that he's preparing filing paperwork and putting together a campaign team.
Barreiro isn't term-limited until 2020, and because he's not on the local ballot in 2018, he won't have to resign from the commission run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
"All of my districts -- in the state House, on the county commission -- have always been 100 percent within this congressional district," said Barreiro, a former state representative. "I've always eyed running for Congress. I didn't think it would be this soon."
Barreiro said his interests at the federal level lie in housing and transportation. On the commission, he's sometimes bucked Republican orthodoxy and sided with labor unions. A group of activists tried to recall him in 2010, after he backed the creation of a new Miami Marlins ballpark, but they fell short in gathering petition signatures against him.
"I think I've worked across the aisle at the state level, and on the commission, and God willing I could do it in Congress," Barreiro said.
Keeping Ros-Lehtinen's seat in Republican hands will be difficult for the GOP. The 27th district, which comprises Southeastern Miami-Dade County, leans Democratic. In last year's presidential election, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the district by 20 percentage points, making it the most Clinton-leaning district in the country held by a Republican.
In a WPLG-ABC 10 "This Week in South Florida" interview taped Friday, Ros-Lehtinen was asked about good potential Republican candidates. She mentioned Barreiro -- and former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado. A Republican named Maria Peiro has already filed.
Regalado said Friday she was "honored" to be mentioned by Ros-Lehtinen, although she said she hasn't yet made up her mind on a campaign. She said she's waiting to see the direction of "the national party," but said it looks like the GOP is willing to support a moderate candidate.
"This is a multi-million-dollar race. I've already discussed this with my family and considered the logistics of it. I've called people locally to see where they're at," she said. "The party may or may not participate in the primary but you need to figure out if you can raise the money. I think I can. I think I'm the right candidate."
Regalado -- whose older brother, Tommy, is currently running against Barreiro's wife, Zoraida, for Miami City Commission -- seemed ready to start the campaign.
"Bruno and I are being mentioned because we've both been elected in the district for a while. We both have a track record that fits the district somewhat. I think I'm a better candidate," she said. "I don't think he can prove he's a fiscal conservative. He supported the Marlins Stadium. He raised taxes. There are things that set us apart."
This post has been updated.
Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff