María Elvira Salazar
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Florida's 27th district
|Assumed office |
January 12, 2021
|Preceded by||Donna Shalala|
|Born||November 1, 1961|
Miami, Florida, U.S.
(m. 1999; div. 2010)
|Education||Miami Dade College|
University of Miami (BA)
Harvard University (MPA)
María Elvira Salazar (born November 1, 1961) is an American journalist, author, and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Florida's 27th congressional district. She is currently one of the Republican assistant whips under Steve Scalise. Prior to entering politics, she worked for the Spanish-language network Telemundo for three decades after serving as a news anchor for Miami-based Mega TV. She has also worked for CNN Español and Univision.
She was the Republican nominee for Congress in 2018, losing to Donna Shalala. Salazar won the 2020 rematch, receiving 51.4% to Shalala's 48.6%. Salazar's term in office commenced on January 3, 2021, and she was scheduled to be sworn in to the 117th United States Congress that day, but she was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly before the start of the term, and was sworn in on January 12 instead.
Salazar was born in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, the daughter of Cuban exiles. She grew up bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English. She spent part of her childhood in Puerto Rico.
Salazar studied at the Deerborne School of Coral Gables and graduated from Miami Dade College. In 1983, Salazar earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Miami, and in 1995, she earned a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Her journalism career began in 1983 as a general assignment reporter for Channel 23.
In 1984, she served as senior political correspondent for the National News in Spanish television in the U.S. for the Spanish International Network, which later became Univision. In 1988, she began working as a White House and Pentagon correspondent for Univision. In 1991, she became the bureau chief at the Central America division of Univision while covering the war at El Salvador.
In 1993, she started working for the Telemundo Network, serving later as senior political correspondent for Telemundo in Cuba. In 1995, she interviewed Fidel Castro for Telemundo at the Cuban mission to the UN. She is said to have been the only U.S. Spanish-language television journalist to interview Castro one-on-one.
In 1996, she was one of the two Hispanic journalists that participated in the only political debate in the 50 years after the Cuban revolution between two politically active figures: Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the National Cuban Assembly, and Jorge Mas Canosa, the founder and president of the Cuban American National Foundation and one of the most famous supporters of the anti-Castro movement.
Salazar spent three decades working at Telemundo until 2002, when she left that TV station and continued her career as a journalist with America TV 41 with her own political news show Maria Elvira Confronta. Later, in 2003, she moved to Channel 22.
In 2006, Raul Alarcon, owner of Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS), purchased channel 22, and the channel is now known as Mega TV. She then changed the name of the program to "Polo Opuestos" under the new owners. She maintained the debate dynamic of her show, but renamed it Maria Elvira Live!.
She interviewed several actors of the telenovela Pablo Escobar: The Drug Lord, including the imprisoned Escobar lieutenant John Jairo Velásquez.
Salazar has said that after her interview with Fidel Castro, her second biggest television interview was with the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, in 2003. This interview was cited by Chilean Judge Juan Guzman as a legal basis to rule Pinochet "mentally competent to stand trial for human rights violations".
On 2013, Salazar interviewed Cuban dissident and blogger Yoani Sánchez in New York City.
Salazar has interviewed several public figures, among them, presidents Bill Clinton (1999) and George W. Bush (2001), Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Carlos Salinas de Gortari (2005), Spanish President José María Aznar (2007), Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (2008) and Juan Manuel Santos (2014), and Mother Teresa.
She has appeared frequently as a guest on Fox News television programs such as Fox & Friends, The O'Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity and The Ingraham Angle, as well as Mornings with Maria on the Fox Business Network and on the conservative network Newsmax, sometimes stylized under the name Elvira Salazar. Among her topics of discussion are immigration, border security and the fight against socialism.
In 2016, she came back to Mega TV as the anchor of the night newscast.
The Miami Herald reported in January 2018 that retiring Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who had represented the 27th congressional district since 1989, had met with Salazar. Ros-Lehtinen said that her district was "totally winnable for the right candidate" from the Republican Party, adding that Salazar "could be the right candidate."
In March 2018, Salazar announced her candidacy to represent the district, which includes Miami Beach, most of Miami, Kendall, and parts of coastal south Dade County. The traditionally Republican district, which includes wealthy communities like Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Coral Gables as well as Little Havana in Miami, had been trending Democratic in recent years.
Salazar's Republican primary opponent, Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, criticized her for her 1995 interview with Fidel Castro, in which she referred to the Cuban dictator as a "comandante", as well as a 2016 appearance on Fox News where she described Barack Obama's rapprochement with Cuba as "noble." Salazar called Barreiro's attack advertising "defamatory," and said that "I have been one of the staunchest, most hardest critics of the Cuban Revolution on the air."
On August 28, 2018, Salazar won the Republican primary by a margin of about 15 points over her leading competitor, Bruno Barreiro. Former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala won the Democratic nomination for the seat. The only debates held during the general election were conducted in Spanish. Shalala does not speak Spanish and used an interpreter, giving Salazar an advantage. Each of the candidates declined opportunities to debate the other in English due to scheduling conflicts. Although Hillary Clinton had won the district by almost 20 points in 2016 – Clinton's best showing in a Republican-held district – polling as late as a month out from Election Day showed Salazar either narrowly ahead or statistically tied with Shalala. Salazar lost the general election to Shalala, who received about 52 percent of the vote.
In August 2019, Salazar announced her candidacy to run in a rematch against Shalala. She was endorsed by President Donald Trump and won the Republican primary in August 2020 and faced Shalala in the November general election. The Cook Political Report, as well as various polling firms, classified the seat as "Likely Democratic". However, Salazar won the seat by a 51.4% to 48.6% margin. She subsequently became one of 19 new Republican women elected to the House of Representatives in the 2020 elections. She is also considered a rising star in the Republican Party. Politico reported that Shalala attributed Salazar's strength to the potency of the socialism attacks amongst the Cuban population in Miami, aided by Shalala referring to herself as a "pragmatic socialist".
In late 2020, Salazar was identified as a participant in the Freedom Force, a group of incoming Republican members of the House of Representatives who "say they're fighting against socialism in America". Due to her COVID-19 quarantine, Salazar missed voting on certifying the presidential election results in the House on January 6, 2021. On January 12, 2021, the day she was sworn in to Congress, Salazar joined fellow Miami Republicans Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Giménez, voting against removing Trump via the 25th Amendment. She voted against the second impeachment of Donald Trump on January 13, 2021.
On February 4, 2021, Salazar was one of eleven Republicans who voted to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her House Education and Labor Committee, and House Budget Committee assignments in response to controversial statements she had made about school shootings at Parkland and Sandy Hook, among other things, joining her fellow Freedom Force members Carlos Gimènez and Nicole Malliotakis. Salazar released a statement on her vote, saying in part, "As I have repeatedly criticized Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic comments, I had to hold Marjorie Taylor Greene accountable for her denial of the Parkland Massacre, the Flight 77 crash, and accusing a Jewish family of starting the California wildfires. From now on, I will hold every Democrat to this new standard that they have created."
On May 19, 2021, she joined 34 other Republicans and all Democrats in voting to approve the creation of the January 6, 2021 commission.
Salazar opposes taxpayer funding for abortion.
Salazar joined Senator Marco Rubio in suggesting that birthright citizenship should be "reviewed," citing abuse of the law by foreign visitors to South Florida. She has said she might be open to the possibility of offering citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
Portraying herself as a moderate Republican, Salazar said in 2018 that she wanted to do "whatever makes sense to the community"; on then-President Donald Trump, Salazar said: "The president has used pretty insensitive words. I will talk to him in a nice, respectful way, because I do respect the institution of the presidency."
In 2021, Salazar voted against the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
Salazar publicly supported a carbon tax proposal by then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo, which many other Republicans rejected. One of Salazar's campaign commercials vowed to fight for environmental protection in Congress.
In March 2021, Salazar was one of eight Republicans to join the House majority in passing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021. Salazar has declared herself a "firm believer in the Second Amendment," while also saying that "ways must be found to keep guns out of the reach of those who should never have them, namely children, criminals and the mentally ill". She has endorsed criminal background checks and called for "effectively closing loopholes that allow criminals to have access to firearms." Salazar said that she might also back an assault weapons ban, and she also supports universal background checks.
Salazar said that she would only support repeal of the Affordable Care Act if a viable alternative were presented. She opposed repeal of the ACA's mandate that health insurers cover pre-existing conditions, but called for "free market" policies on health insurance.
Salazar is a supporter of Israel and was endorsed by several rabbis in Miami.
On February 25, 2021, Salazar voted against the Equality Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to explicitly include new protections. Salazar said the bill "missed the mark by removing religious freedom protections."
Salazar criticized President Barack Obama's policy of engagement with Cuba, saying that she would support lifting the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba only once there is democracy in the country. She has heavily criticized Bernie Sanders for "his honeymoon in the Soviet Union" and "his praise for Nicaragua's and Cuba's socialist regimes". She said that Democratic socialism means: "misery, oppression and exile".
On March 2, 2021, Salazar joined Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González (R-PR) in introducing the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act.
|Republican||Maria Elvira Salazar||115,588||45.8|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
|Republican||Maria Elvira Salazar||176,141||51.4|
|Democratic||Donna Shalala (incumbent)||166,758||48.6|
|Republican gain from Democratic|
She is the recipient of five Emmy Awards for several reports on Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
Salazar was selected for the inaugural 2021 Forbes 50 Over 50; made up of entrepreneurs, leaders, scientists and creators who are over the age of 50.
In 2010, Grijalbo, a branch name of Random House, published her book Si Dios contigo, ¿quién contra ti?(ISBN 0307393267)
Salazar lives in Miami with Nicoletta and Martina, her two daughters by her second husband, Renzo Maietto.