Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: Aug. 1989, 12th full term.

Born: July 15, 1952, Havana, Cuba

Home: Miami

Education: Miami-Dade Comm. Col., A.A. 1972, FL Intl. U., B.A. 1975, M.S. 1986, U. of Miami, Ed.D.. 2004

Professional Career: Teacher, principal & owner, Eastern Academy Elem. Schl., 1978–85.

Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: married (Dexter) , 4 children

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 1989 became the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress. Since then, she has blazed an unusual political trail – generally conservative on fiscal and foreign policy matters with moderate-to-liberal stances on gay rights, immigration, and other social issues that have kept her popular at home.

Ros-Lehtinen (ross-LAY-teh-nin) was born in Havana. She came to Miami at the age of 8 not knowing English and graduated from Miami Dade Community College and Florida International University. She became a teacher and then was the owner of a private school. In 2004, she got her doctorate in education from the University of Miami. Her dissertation was on U.S. House members’ views on national testing for high school students. She was elected to the Florida House in 1982, at age 30, and to the state Senate in 1986. While there, she met her husband, Dexter Lehtinen, who also served in both houses of the legislature and as U.S. attorney in Miami during the first Bush administration. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen ran for the U.S. House in the special election after the death of Democrat Claude Pepper, one of the most enduring liberals in American politics and a staunch opponent of Castro. At that time, there were no Republicans and no Cuban-Americans representing Miami or Dade County. Democratic nominee Gerald Richman played on suspicions of Cubans and won the votes of 96% of blacks and 88% of non-Hispanic whites. Ninety percent of Hispanics, almost all of them Cuban, voted for Ros-Lehtinen. That was enough to give her a 53%-47% victory. In the years afterward, the district became more Hispanic, and she had no serious challenges until 2008.

Ros-Lehtinen’s voting patterns have become more centrist as the House GOP has veered to the right. She is a longtime supporter of gay rights, backing same-sex marriage and serving as one of the first GOP members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. LGBT issues are personal to her; her daughter Amanda is now a transgender man named Rodrigo Lehtinen. She was one of just 23 House Republicans to oppose a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in June 2012 that Democrats called unacceptable, and she earlier abandoned the majority of her party in voting to support an increase in the minimum wage; raising automobiles’ fuel-economy standards; tightening food safety; and giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate some tobacco products.

When Republicans won a House majority in 1995, she refused to sign the party’s Contract with America policy manifesto and was a harsh critic of Republican attempts to pass English-only legislation, to cut off welfare benefits for legal immigrants—she voted against the 1996 welfare bills—and to reduce the immigration quota for relatives of U.S. citizens. In the 2007 debate over immigration, she pleaded with Republicans not to alienate the growing Hispanic voting bloc. Ros-Lehtinen backed Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential bid despite his hard-line immigration stance, saying his position on economic issues mattered far more to her.

When Republicans reclaimed control of the House in 2011, Ros-Lehtinen took over as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She developed an extremely tight relationship with the panel’s ranking Democrat, Howard Berman of California, and they worked closely on imposing economic sanctions on Iran as a response to its developing a nuclear program. In 2010, they formed the bipartisan Working Group on Iran Sanctions Implementation to help ensure that U.S. and international sanctions on Iran are fully enforced, and in 2012 she introduced a bill with Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley to compensate the U.S. hostages who were held in Iran in for 444 days starting in 1979. (The legislation did not move, but the movie Argo about the hostage crisis gave it some attention.) Ros-Lehtinen shared Berman’s strong support for Israel and is a fierce critic of Middle East regimes such as Syria that are accused of sponsoring terrorism. And she was a strong supporter of the war with Iraq. When a series of revolutions began to take place in 2011 throughout the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia and Egypt, Ros-Lehtinen kept close tabs on the Obama administration’s involvement. She initially criticized the White House for failing in Egypt to act quickly enough to press for reform, and she chastised the administration for waffling on how to handle the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ros-Lehtinen strongly backed the 1996 Helms-Burton law that tightened sanctions against Fidel Castro, and she has opposed farm-state Republicans who have sought to relax the trade embargo on Cuba in effect since 1961. In February 2008, after Castro stepped down as head of state, she called for his indictment for shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Gramma, once called her “a ferocious wolf disguised as a woman,” which she shortened in Spanish to “LOBA FRZ” and proudly put on her license plate. Republican term limits forced her to yield the Foreign Affairs gavel in 2013 to California’s Ed Royce.

As the 2008 election approached, national Democrats thought Ros-Lehtinen might be vulnerable. Democrat Annette Taddeo, owner of the LanguageSpeak translation service, launched a challenge and financed it with $400,000 of her own money. Colombian-born Taddeo favored the embargo on Cuba but wanted to ease travel restrictions and money transfers. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured $1.4 million into television ads, and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi campaigned for Taddeo. Ros-Lehtinen won 58%-42%, even though the district voted 51%-49% for Obama. “If I can make it in this election, I can make it in any election,” she told The Miami Herald.

Obama even called with congratulations, but Ros-Lehtinen, thinking that one of the local radio stations was pulling a prank, hung up on him. She said, “I thought, ‘Why would Obama want to call a little slug on the planet like me?’” When White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called to explain, she hung up on him, too. Then Berman called and persuaded her that the calls were genuine. She took the president’s second call, and the two shared a laugh over the episode.

The 2010 election marked her return to dominance. She took 69% of the vote, and two years later she won again with 60%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3931

(202) 225-5620

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2206
Washington, DC 20515-0927

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3931

(202) 225-5620

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2206
Washington, DC 20515-0927

DISTRICT OFFICE

(305) 668-2285

(305) 668-5970

Building Five Suite 208
Miami, FL 33155-5544

DISTRICT OFFICE

(305) 668-2285

(305) 668-5970

Building Five Suite 208
Miami, FL 33155-5544

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 522784
Miami, FL 33152-2784

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 522784
Miami, FL 33152-2784

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Aerospace

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Agriculture

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Animal Rights

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Banking

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Census

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Crime

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Disaster

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Education

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Environment

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Family

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Govt Ops

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Health

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Homeland Security

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Immigration

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Insurance

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Intelligence

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Intergovernmental

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Judiciary

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Labor

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Land Use

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Medicare

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Military

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Minorities

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Rules

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Science

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Small Business

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Tax

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Telecommunications

Wes Brooks
Senior Legislative Assistant

wes.brooks@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3931

Trade

Joshua Salpeter
Chief of Staff

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Transportation

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Veterans

Chris Ferrer
Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Women

Gabriella Boffelli
Legislative Director

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Votes: 138,488
Percent: 60.17%
Manny Yevancey
Votes: 85,020
Percent: 36.94%
2012 PRIMARY
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Votes: 102,360
Percent: 68.89%
Rolando Banciella
Votes: 46,235
Percent: 31.11%
2010 PRIMARY
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Votes: 140,617
Percent: 57.87%
Annette Taddeo
Votes: 102,372
Percent: 42.13%
2008 PRIMARY
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (69%), 2008 (58%), 2006 (62%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (100%), 1996 (100%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (67%), 1990 (60%), 1989 special (53%)

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