U.S. congressman facing campaign finance probe struggles in Florida primary battle

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The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, won the Republican primary in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which Republicans hope to snatch back from Democrats in November.

Democratic Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an immigrant from Ecuador, flipped the seat two years ago.

Gimenez, who is Cuban-born, was endorsed by President Donald Trump, even though Gimenez had said in 2016 that he would vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Cook Political Report labels the 26th District a “toss-up” on Nov. 3.

In Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz easily fended off her third primary challenge in as many elections, defeating progressive community activist Jen Perelman.

Despite the federal campaign finance investigation that was disclosed last year, Spano had the support of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and others in the Republican leadership.

But last week, another Florida Republican, Representative Matt Gaetz, warned the party against nominating Spano, saying he could not be re-elected in the autumn because of the campaign finance questions that have dogged him since just after he entered Congress in November 2018.

“Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are going to savage Ross Spano,” Gaetz, an ally of President Donald Trump, told callers in a tele-town hall, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s a drag. He’s a drain. He won’t help the president get re-elected.”

In Florida’s 21st Congressional District, home to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, far-right activist Laura Loomer was leading in the Republican primary. She has been kicked off social media platforms for anti-Muslim comments and endorsed by former Trump adviser Roger Stone.

Whoever wins the Republican primary is likely to face an uphill fight against Democratic Representative Lois Frankel in November. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney)