MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After months of not finding a candidate to run against Republican Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, Democrats now find themselves with two candidates and a what may be an expensive and highly contested primary.
CBS Miami has learned Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell is dropping out of the U.S. Senate race to run against Salazar.
And moments after the Russell news was reported, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins also jumped into the primary.
"Eileen Higgins has shown to be a battle-tested elected leader who has always stood by the people of her community," her political consultant, Christian Ulvert, wrote in a statement to CBS Miami. "It's no surprise that trusted leaders in our community are excited to hear that Comm. Higgins is ready to take her fight to Washington D.C. She will be making a formal announcement imminently."
Her announcement is expected on Monday. Higgins declined to comment, pointing instead to Ulvert's statement.
Russell declined to comment, telling CBS Miami he had a "major announcement" about the future of his campaign in the next 24 hours. He eventually made the formal announcement on his TikTok account Sunday morning.
But in another sign that Russell was planning on shifting races, CBS Miami learned he's been polling in the district, which includes Miami Beach, Little Havana, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
For nearly a year, Russell had been waging an uphill battle against Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings to become the Democratic nominee who would challenge incumbent Marco Rubio in November.
Demings had the backing of most Democrats across the state and in Washington, while Russell drove across the state, hoping his TikTok videos would spur a groundswell of support, particularly among younger Democrats. But after 11 months on the campaign trail it became clear to Russell that he could not continue to seriously challenge Demings.
Russell raised slightly more than $1.2 million during his Senate race and still has more than $280,000 in his account, according to federal campaign records. Under federal law, he can shift that money into a new campaign account to run against Salazar, who is sitting on $1 million, according to federal records.
The fight between Russell and Higgins could be an intense one. Russell has served on the city commission since 2015. He has been one of the more liberal voices on the dais, advocating for quality and environmental issues. Last week he was the pivotal vote in the city decision to award a 99-year lease to developer Jorge Mas and soccer legend David Beckham to build a soccer stadium, office park, hotel and retail space at the current site of the Melreese Golf Course.
This will be the second time Russell has run for Congress in this district. In 2018, he jumped into a crowded Democratic primary field, only to leave the race a short time later. Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala eventually won the primary and was elected, only to lose two years later to Salazar.
Higgins has been on the County Commission since 2018 and has developed a reputation as champion for the living wage. She led the fight to see that employees, who work for private contractors, be treated fairly.
The fact that no one had filed to run against Salazar has been embarrassing to the Democratic Party and seen as further proof that Florida, and particularly Miami-Dade County, is becoming more and more Republican. Nevertheless, Salazar is vulnerable. She has made a series of outlandish statements since taking office, including advocating America shooting down Russian planes over Ukraine, saying "Freedom is not free."
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