The race for the Republican nomination to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress is taking a bizarre twist as several GOP candidates came together in South Florida Thursday to voice their opposition to a fellow candidate.
The candidate in question is former journalist turned politician Maria Elvira Salazar. Opponents say she is an infiltrated Communist, while she says she's just as Republican as the other candidates, adding that she has been blacklisted from visiting Cuba.
The unusual act of solidarity among political opponents during campaign season happened at a press conference Thursday morning, where eight of the candidates for Florida's 27th Congressional District came together to announce their opposition to Salazar.
"We're here, united, for people to understand, to wake up and do not put Maria Elvira Salazar in that seat," candidate Gina Sosa said.
The candidates allege Salazar is not a real Republican because she only recently registered as one.
“With all due respect, Maria Elvira Salazar should have run as a Democrat, but not as a Republican," Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said.
Salazar, a journalist for 36 years, quit her television show at the beginning of the year to pursue the congressional seat left by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring after 29 years, and according to several polls, Salazar holds a commanding lead.
Her opponents claim she is a closeted leftist and they base this in part on a television interview Salazar conducted with Fidel Castro which aired more than two decades ago. Excerpts of the interview have recently resurfaced in a campaign ad paid for by one of her opponents, Steven Marks.
"This guy, basically what he did is he edited it. He manipulated the interview. He put one piece with another to try to convey something that did not happen," Salazar said. "That interview has been there and the whole community knows about it and at the time that I put it on the air people were extremely satisfied with how it went."
"No matter what she says, no matter what she does, the behavior of that interview, watch the whole thing and I watched the whole thing, she is very comfortable and so is Fidel Castro. He is very comfortable with her and that is very telling," candidate Angie Chirino said.
Among other things, Salazar's opponents take issue with the fact that during the interview she addresses Castro as "Commandante" or commander.
"It's shameful, it's shameful that these people are trying to gang up against me instead of talking about their vision for this community," Salazar said.
Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Aug. 28.