MIAMI (CBSMiami) — After months without finding a candidate to run against Republican Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, Democrats now find themselves with two candidates and a primary that could be costly and hotly contested.
CBS Miami has learned that Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell is expected to drop out of the U.S. Senate race to run against Salazar. An official announcement could take place today.
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And moments after Russell’s news, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins also jumped into the primary.
“Eileen Higgins has proven herself to be a proven elected leader who has always been supportive of people in 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 thrilled to hear that Comm. Higgins is ready to take her fight to Washington DC. She will make an official announcement shortly.
His announcement is expected on Monday. Higgins declined to comment, instead pointing to Ulvert’s statement.
Russell declined to comment, telling CBS Miami he would make a “major announcement” about the future of his campaign in the next 24 hours.
But in another sign that Russell plans to change the race, CBS Miami learned that he surveyed the district, which includes Miami Beach, Little Havana, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
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For nearly a year, Russell had fought an uphill battle against Orlando Congresswoman Val Demings to become the Democratic nominee who would challenge incumbent Marco Rubio in November.
Demings had the support of most Democrats in the state and in Washington, while Russell drove across the state, hoping his TikTok videos would spark an outpouring of support, especially among younger Democrats. But after eleven months on the campaign trail, it became clear to Russell that he could not continue to seriously challenge Demings.
Russell raised just over $1.2 million during his Senate run and still has more than $280,000 in his account, according to federal campaign records. Under federal law, he can transfer that money to 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 intense. Russell has served on the City Commission since 2015. He has been one of the most liberal voices on the podium, championing quality and environmental issues. Last week he was the deciding vote in the city’s decision to grant developer Jorge Mas and soccer legend David Beckham a 99-year lease to build a soccer stadium, office park, hotel and retail space on the current site of 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 drop out of the race soon after. 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 earned a reputation as a living wage champion. She led the fight to ensure that employees, who work for private contractors, are treated fairly.
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The fact that no one filed against Salazar was embarrassing to the Democratic Party and seen as further evidence that Florida, and Miami-Dade County in particular, is becoming increasingly Republican. Nevertheless, Salazar is vulnerable. She has made a series of outlandish statements since taking office, including advocating that America shoot down Russian planes over Ukraine, saying “freedom doesn’t come for free.”