WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican from South Florida who has been critical of President Donald Trump, plans to retire when her term is up next year, according to an interview she gave on Sunday to the Miami Herald.
The decision by Ros-Lehtinen not to seek re-election could give Democrats a chance to pick up a seat in the 2018 congressional election. Her district has increasingly leaned Democratic, and Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent, won it by 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election.
Ros-Lehtinen, 64, declined to endorse Trump during the White House race and differed with him on issues such as immigration. She balked at supporting the proposed Obamacare replacement legislation that the president backed.
Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, became the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress in 1989.
The veteran Republican congresswoman had fended off a challenge in 2016 from Democrat Scott Fuhrman. Fuhrman has said he plans to run again for the seat in 2018, when all of the members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the U.S. Senate will face re-election. Trump’s Republicans currently control both the House and Senate.
After the Miami Herald article was published, Fuhrman tweeted that he wished Ros-Lehtinen “all the best in retirement” and thanked her for “decades of public service” to the community.
Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper that her decision was motivated by a desire to seek new challenges in her life and did not stem from concern that she would not be re-elected.
“There was no epiphany,” she said. “There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I’ve said, ‘I’ve got to move on.’”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for Democrats in the House of Representatives, said in a statement that Ros-Lehtinen’s plans to retire were a recognition that she was vulnerable. It is “all but guaranteed” that the seat will go to a Democrat when she leaves, the committee said.
Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn