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Florida - 18th District

Incumbent -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) ; Running for re-election

Safe Republican
Race Ratings Key
 

CQ Politics rates this race as "Safe," meaning the incumbent party is virtually certain to win the seat.

 

District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

The 18th features the glitz of downtown Miami and the southern part of Miami Beach, but its political base comes from the Hispanic-dominated areas west of downtown. The district winds its way south along the coast from Miami and follows U.S. 1 through the Florida Keys, taking in downtrodden sections of Little Havana, as well as wealthy Coral Gables (home to the University of Miami), Key Biscayne and Fisher Island.

The Keys -- a 120-mile-long island chain between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean -- and in particular Key West, have a significant gay and lesbian population, in addition to older natives who adhere to the independence and environmentalism of the "Conch Republic." The Keys are vulnerable to hurricanes, and the economy depends on out-of-state visitors. Miami International Airport, which is nearby in the 21st, and the Port of Miami and are major transportation centers that feed the local trade and tourism industries.

Despite this bedrock industry, falling real estate values and rising foreclosure rates are having a deep impact on Miami-Dade County and Miami in particular. Local officials hope that redevelopment projects in midtown Miami and a new stadium in Little Havana for baseball's Marlins will give an economic boost to the area.

A majority of district residents were born outside the United States, and two-thirds of the population is Hispanic. While the older Cuban- American base in this district is reliably Republican and stridently anti-Fidel Castro, issues such as the economy are increasingly important to younger voters. Overall, residents tend to be conservative on foreign policy issues but more in line with Democrats on welfare and other social issues. Democrat Barack Obama won 51 percent of the district's 2008 presidential vote, although there are still pockets of GOP support in areas such as Little Havana and Coral Gables.

Major Industry

Trade, transportation, tourism

Cities

Miami (pt.), 312,331; Miami Beach (pt.), 75,056; Coral Gables, 46,780; Westchester (unincorporated), 29,862; Key West, 24,649

Notable

"Independence Day" celebrations in the Conch Republic honor the one-minute rebellion of Key West residents against a 1982 federal blockade.

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