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Democrat Mary Barzee Flores switches races to challenge Republican Mario Diaz-Balart

Mario Diaz-Balart


Former judge Mary Barzee Flores is switching races to challenge Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, ensuring that Democrats will field strong candidates in the November election for all three Miami-Dade U.S. House seats held by Republicans.

"I’m leaving District 27 race with a heavy heart but also with the confidence that come November that a Democrat is going to take back this seat," Barzee Flores said in an interview with the Miami Herald. "I’m confident that Mario Diaz-Balart can and will be beaten this fall." Until Thursday, Barzee Flores was running to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring.

Diaz-Balart, who hasn't faced a serious challenger since 2008, will be tough to beat. He's a longtime incumbent who is well-known in his Hialeah-based district and Barzee Flores has never run a contested race for elected office. But the former federal judge nominee, who was blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio, picked up key endorsements from EMILY's List, a group that seeks to elect female Democrats to Congress, while she was running in the Democratic primary to replace Ros-Lehtinen. She says EMILY's List is "100 percent behind" her decision to switch races.

Barzee Flores' switch was first reported by Politico Florida.

Barzee Flores said she made her decision to switch races in the past 24 hours, though she said she represented parts of the district as an attorney and circuit court judge. She does not live in the Florida's 25th congressional district, which includes most of Northwestern Miami-Dade and then extends across the Everglades to include portions of Collier and Hendry Counties.

"Last time I looked Mario doesn’t live in 25 either," Barzee Flores said. Members of Congress do not need to live in the districts they represent.

For months, Democrats struggled to find a serious candidate to challenge Diaz-Balart, who won reelection by 24 percentage points in 2016 against nominal opposition. But President Donald Trump won Diaz-Balart's congressional district over Hillary Clinton by just two percentage points, and Democrats are giddy at the prospect of taking control of Congress after they flipped dozens of seats nationwide this year, including a state Senate seat in Miami-Dade and a congressional seat in Pennsylvania that Trump carried by 17 percentage points.

Read more here.