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Annette Taddeo drops governor bid to challenge Maria Elvira Salazar instead

Annette Taddeo dropping out of governor's race to instead challenge Maria Elvira Salazar
Annette Taddeo dropping out of governor's race to instead challenge Maria Elvira Salazar 03:39

MIAMI – Annette Taddeo is abandoning her campaign for governor and will instead challenge Republican Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar.

In an interview with CBS News Miami, Taddeo said she made the decision following the recent mass shootings.

"We are at a critical point in our country," Taddeo told CBS News Miami. "And frankly, I am not going to stand on the sidelines and not go in there and fight, especially after what we saw in Buffalo and Uvalde."

During the interview, she took direct aim at Salazar, whose first two years in Congress have been marked by controversy and outlandish statements. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she said she supported direct U.S. military engagement with Russia declaring, "Freedom is not free."

She has also posted pictures of herself holding a colorful pinata outside the Capitol, when she voted against the American Rescue Plan – which extended unemployment benefits during the pandemic and provided money for small businesses – declaring the bill was "socialism." She also voted against the infrastructure bill. (After both passed, however, she attended events in Miami taking credit for the money spent in her district.)

Salazar claims the media has been infiltrated by "neo-Marxists" and during her initial 2020 campaign she falsely pledged that she would not take a salary as a member of Congress.

Taddeo said Salazar is out of step with the district.

"This seat has always been represented regardless of party by someone that would bring everyone together, would really look out to represent the community, to work across the aisle, to get things done," Taddeo said. "And what we've had, frankly, is a demagogue, a liar and an embarrassment and someone that has not even voted in the best interests of our community."

Salazar responded Monday evening saying Taddeo can say anything she wants, adding, "I've heard that and a lot more."

But she added the Democratic party is out of touch the most Americans.

"She has to defend the far-left policies that have penetrated her party," Salazar said. "We're talking about a disaster in the economy. You are talking about high gas prices. We're talking about no baby formula. We're talking about people not wanting to go to work because they have received free money. We're talking about a situation where Americans are not happy. So welcome to run, but you have to run on your record. And she has been a career politician. I'm doing this because I love my community."

Taddeo was trailing her two Democratic rivals – Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried – in the primary to see who would take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. On Monday, she did not say who she was supporting in the race. Nor would she answer the question as to whether either Crist or Fried had any hope of beating DeSantis – whose poll numbers remain high and has raised more than $100 million for his campaign.

Taddeo's move to the congressional race had been widely rumored for weeks, even though her campaign kept insisting she was in the governor's race to stay.

This will be Taddeo's fourth run for Congress. Nevertheless, the race for Florida's 27th Congressional District, which stretches from Miami Beach to Little Havana and down through Kendall, makes more sense for Taddeo. As a state senator, Taddeo already represents a portion of that district and is well known in the area.

She will also have to face another Democrat in the congressional primary. Last month, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell gave up his run for the Democratic nomination for Senate against Val Demings and jumped into the Salazar race.

Russell issued a statement: I am the right candidate to take on the country's most vulnerable GOP freshman. Although primaries are a healthy part of democracy, I will continue to focus on the number one goal in this race – unseating Maria Elvira Salazar who has failed to deliver results for her constituents."

Voters will decide in August whether it is Taddeo and Russell will face Salazar in November. 

The district is also one of the few congressional districts in the country that is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and may represent the Democrats best shot at turning a Republican seat blue in a year that is expected to heavily favor Republicans across the country.

"Indeed, this seat and this race will not be easy," she admitted. "And I am obviously attracted to tough races. But look, I currently represent a seat that voted for Trump by six points and am very popular in my district. And that is because, again, I truly represent all of my community, whether they voted for me or not and tried to be that voice and that fighter for them. And that's not what we have right now."

After CBS News Miami reported Taddeo's decision, the Crist and Fried campaigns released statements supporting Taddeo's decision.

"Senator Taddeo is a dear friend and a force to be reckoned with," Crist said in his statement. "She is a tireless public servant and fearless advocate for working Floridians across the Sunshine State and in South Florida. I thank her for her leadership, civility, and fighting spirit in Tallahassee and in this governor's race. And I wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on her run for Congress."

Fried noted this now means the race for the nomination is now a head-to-head contest.

"The choice for Democrats couldn't be any starker," Fried stated. "This race is now only between a proven statewide Democratic winner and a three-time statewide loser and self-described `pro-life' former Republican."

Fried went on note: "We wish Senator Taddeo well and expect a new South Florida Democratic Congressmember and an ally of the Fried Administration in 2023."

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