President Donald Trump endorsed a candidate in a key House race on Thursday who previously considered leaving the Republican Party, told Trump to drop out in 2016, and who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump endorsed Carlos Gimenez on Thursday night in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, tweeting: “Carlos will win big, very exciting. Great for Florida, great for USA! He has my complete and total Endorsement!”
Carlos will win big, very exciting. Great for Florida, great for USA! He has my complete and total Endorsement! https://t.co/6Rd5laSEkV
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
Trump’s decision to back Gimenez effectively means that he has turned his back on Irina Vilariño, a pro-Trump refugee from communist Cuba who came to the U.S. when she was a little girl and is a highly successful business owner.
In 2016, Gimenez told WFOR CBS4: “I’m not going to endorse anybody, but between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m not voting for Donald Trump. Obviously, I must be voting for Hillary Clinton.”
“Donald Trump needs to step down,” Gimenez continued. “I don’t think he is viable as a presidential candidate.”
In 2014, Gimenez indicated that he was thinking about leaving the Republican Party.
“Are you still a Republican?” Gimenez was asked in an interview.
“Look, I hold a nonpartisan position,” Gimenez responded. “And what bothers me is you somehow get labeled because you’re in a party.”
“I’m an independent thinker,” Gimenez continued. “I support Democrats and Republicans. I’m registered as a Republican right now. But I take my position as a nonpartisan very, very seriously.”
When he was asked about whether he would change his party affiliation, Gimenez said, “I may be. We’ll see about that.”
Vilariño, 43, is the co-owner of Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine restaurants, the first of which opened in 1984 after her family arrived in the U.S. after escaping communist Cuba and now has over a dozen restaurants in South Florida.
“Members of Vilariño’s family, including her father, were locked up as political prisoners in communist Cuba and, at just 4-years-old, Vilariño and her family arrived in Florida during the Mariel Boatlift, an event where a large number of Cubans escaped to the U.S. during 1980,” The Daily Wire reported. “Vilariño is challenging freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), who has voted with socialist Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (MN) 95% of the time while in Congress.”
“Vilariño — a party loyalist with a sharp-tongued presence on social media — provides an interesting contrast with [Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)], who frequently broke with Trump and often kept the president at a distance while representing a district that is both majority-Hispanic and left-leaning,” The Miami Herald reported. “After Curbelo lost, Trump mocked him during a press conference and blamed his loss on his reluctance to embrace the president.”
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Wire last year, Vilariño said that she was inspired to run for office because she “began to fear that the same policies that wrecked my world in Cuba were beginning to take hold in the Democrat Party here.”
Vilariño said that the top issues for voters in that district were “the national debt, healthcare, and our environment.”
“The most important, I feel, is the national debt because if we do not address that, there will not be enough financial resources in the world to deal with the other two issues,” Vilariño added. “Strengthening the middle class is a priority. If Americans don’t feel they can make ends meet that allows socialists to tout their entitlement agenda. Once people get on that train it will be too difficult for them to get off of it.”
Vilariño has attended numerous political events with Trump and has defended him a couple of times during appearances she made on CNN. Vilariño also had far out raised the other Republicans that were running in the district.