U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speaks about decision to retire from Congress

Longtime congresswoman hopes successor will work in bipartisan fashion

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, spoke to reporters Monday about her decision to retire at the end of her term next year.

"I have decided that I will not seek re-election in 2018," Ros-Lehtinen said Monday morning during a news conference at her congressional office in South Florida.

Ros-Lehtinen said the time has come to retire after 38 years as an elected official.

"I still have a lot of fight left in me, and I want to assure the constituents of my congressional district that I will work diligently for South Florida for the next 20 months with the same fervor, with the same enthusiasm, that I have always had," Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, became the first Cuban-American to be elected to Congress in 1989. She previously served in the Florida House and the Florida Senate.

Asked why she decided now was the time to step away from politics, Ros-Lehtinen said there was no "eureka moment."

"But there comes a time that you say, 'You know, even though this is a wonderful life, and even though I'm doing what I love to do, there's so many other wonderful things,'" she said.

The Republican won re-election last year in an increasingly left-leaning district that voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"We're just very happy in the family to have her move on to something new," her husband, Dexter Lehtinen, said.


Ros-Lehtinen said there are lots of things that she could do, citing her doctorate in education, but she doesn't have a job lined up.

"I don't even know what I'll do," she said.

Ros-Lehtinen said she loves her job and that the tone of the current administration didn't have a bearing on her decision.

"I'm used to it," Ros-Lehtinen said of her years in Washington.

Ros-Lehtinen did have a message for whoever succeeds her in Florida's 27th Congressional District.

"I hope that the next member of Congress would be someone who works in a bipartisan manner the way that I do," she said. "I'm proud to be a Republican, but I think good ideas come from Democrats also."

About the Authors:

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."