‘Winning Isn’t Everything’: Longtime Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Retiring in 2018

Apr 30, 2017

Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress, is retiring after 38 years in public service, citing "a personal decision based on personal considerations."

"The most difficult challenge is not to simply keep winning elections; but rather the more difficult challenge is to not let the ability to win define my seasons." Ros-Lehtinen wrote Sunday in the Miami Herald, which first broke the news of her impending retirement.

But Ros-Lehtinen said she is confident that if she were to run again, she could do so successfully.

"We all know, or should know, that winning isn’t everything," she wrote. "My seasons are defined, instead, by seeking out new challenges, being there as our grandchildren grow up, interacting with and influencing public issues in new and exciting ways."

The longtime politician was first elected to Congress in 1989 after serving in the Florida State House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. She was also the first Hispanic woman to serve in all three governing bodies.

Ros-Lehtinen, who came from Cuba to the United States as a child, has been a vocal critic of President Trump, objecting to the executive order he signed January 27 — which has been held up in court battles since — suspending refugees from six countries from entering the United States. She also did not support the American Health Care Act, the Republicans' initial health care bill replacement that did not gain enough support for a vote.

But Ros-Lehtinen told the Herald her disagreements with Trump are not related to her decision to retire. “I've served under all kinds of different dynamics in all these years that I've been in office here,” she said.

Her retirement provides an opening for Democrats to win a house seat in her Southern Florida district, where, according to the Miami Herald, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by over 20 points in the 2016 election.

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