Miami Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American ever elected to Congress, has announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in 2018, after 28 years in Congress.
“It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” Ros-Lehtinen told The Miami Herald on Sunday. “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’”
Ros-Lehtinen, 64, won her reelection last November to Florida’s 27th district by 10 points. It was her closest race in a long time, but she said she wasn’t worried about the elections next year.
“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” she said.
The prospect of more years in Congress no longer appeals to her, news sources report. She is one of the most vocal Republican critics of the Trump Administration, but she confirmed that she is not retiring because of her differences with the president or with the Republican leadership in Congress.
The congresswoman has disagreed with the Trump administration’s policies on deportation, budget cuts, healthcare, and transgender rights. She said having a Republican administration and a Republican majority in the House and Senate has given her the opportunity to show that she’s a moderate and “not one of those name-callers that think the Democrats don’t have a single good idea.”
“I’ve served under all kinds of different dynamics in all these years that I’ve been in office here,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Though I don’t agree with many, if not most, positions of President Trump.”
Ros-Lehtinen has been in Congress since 1989, longer than any other lawmaker from Florida. She was the first Cuban-American and first Hispanic woman ever elected to Congress. She is well known for her foreign policy work and has chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Fidel Castro reportedly nicknamed her “the big bad she-wolf.”
She has been a vocal critic of the congressional delegations that have been making trips to Cuba to meet with the island’s government officials. She slammed them for their apparent disregard of the human rights violations that are taking place on the island, and suggested that they meet with members of the opposition. She is also famous for her support of LGBT+ rights and has been an important advocate for transgender rights in the Hispanic community because of her transgender son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen.
Ros-Lehtinen plans to spend her remaining time in Congress to keep pushing for Germany to offer restitution to victims of the Holocaust, which is one of her long-running goals. “And I will continue to stand up to tyrants and dictators all over the world,” she said. “I take that as a badge of honor, when they blast me and don’t let me in their countries.”