MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade’s two newly-elected, Republican US House Representatives are speaking out, saying their top goal is building up the economy.
“The economy, the economy, the economy,” said Maria Elvira Salazar outside a family home in South Miami. The 59-year-old Salazar spoke to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench about her victory over the incumbent 79-year-old Donna Shalala and her top goals as a member of the 27th Congressional District.
Salazar, who celebrated her victory Tuesday night in Miami with supporters and who danced to “YMCA” behind a lectern, said, “We are very grateful and honored to represent the District.”
Salazar, a former TV journalist, had lost to Shalala by 6 percent of the vote two years ago.
“Why do you think you won?” she was asked, I won because I was in the community 18 months,” she said. “I was working every day. This is the ultimate melting pot.”
She said she reached out to all segments of society.
“You have to go down to Cutler Ridge, Palmetto Bay, Homestead, everywhere, to know the community,” she said.
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“I think my opponent was detached and did not represent the people but I don’t want to talk about that,” she said.
When asked about her goals, she said “The economy, the economy, the economy. You guys have probably heard that I plan to put an employment division in my congressional office. There are 175 billion dollars available for small business. If you want to learn about this and what can be done for you, we want to help people accomplish the American dream.”
When asked about the pandemic, she said “Social distancing is important. People need to continue wearing masks and there is a vaccine around the corner.”
Donna Shalala said in a statement that she congratulated Salazar and Shalala said she fought hard for issues that included affordable health care.
The election has dramatically altered the political makeup of the Miami-dade congressional delegation. Currently only one of the 5 congressmen and congresswomen representing the county is a republican. That is Mario Diaz Balart. In January, there will be 3 republicans because Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez also won his election in the 26TH congressional district.
D’Oench also spoke to Gimenez.
“It feels great to win this election and I give thanks to my friends and family and obviously the voters,” said Gimenez. “I am humbled by that and I am humbled any time I am elected.”
We asked Gimenez why he thinks he was able to defeat incumbent Democratic congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel Powell.
“I think voters approved of the way I handled COvid-19 as Mayor of Miami-Dade,” he said. “I took a middle of the road approach and they approved of how I handled it. I listened to the doctors and tried to follow what they advised. Some people thought we should open up more and others felt we should be stricter. I took a middle of the road approach and I think that was the right thing.”
“I also think my opponent and her views were too far to the left and too extreme for that particular district and that came back to haunt her,” he said. “They want people who can work together in Congress and work across the aisle and get things done.”
As of Wednesday morning, Gimenez said he had not received a phone call yet from Mucarsel Powell conceding the election. In a statement, Mucarsel Powell said she was still waiting for the votes to be counted.
Gimenez was asked about his goals.
“I think my first goal in Congress is to restore the economy,” he said. “People need jobs and when you have a job a lot of things can take care of themselves. We had a great economy before the Pandemic.”
As for the Pandemic, he said “We need to get that vaccine as soon as possible and get people to have confidence in the vaccine so we can stop wearing masks and get back to normal.”
“In foreign affairs,” he said, “I think China is a threat to our economy and also becoming a great military threat to some of our allies in the Middle East. This is the greatest country in the world. I love this country and we need to make things better. But I would not fundamentally change what we are.”
Gimenez will be Mayor for the next two weeks.
Then he said he looks forward to learning more about becoming a member of Congress.