Ros-Lehtinen, 1st Cuban-American Elected to Congress, to Retire - NBC New York
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Ros-Lehtinen, 1st Cuban-American Elected to Congress, to Retire

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a 64-year-old Republican, was first elected to Congress in 1988

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    US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen discusses her decision to retire from Congress.

    (Published Monday, May 1, 2017)

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, is retiring after nearly three decades of representing South Florida in the House of Representatives.

    The news was confirmed to NBC 6 by the congresswoman’s communication director. Ros-Lehtinen will finish out her term through 2018, and will hold a press conference Monday to discuss her departure.

    Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement saying, in part, that she was confident she could win re-election, but this was a "decision based on personal consideration."

    "I look forward to continuing to work for the betterment of our community and I will always be a voice for issues that impact South Florida," she said in the statement released Sunday. "I am grateful to the United States for embracing me and affording me the opportunity of attaining a blessed life: full of love, purpose, and achievement. I can never repay what this country has given me and I'm honored to have been South Florida's voice in Congress for so many years."

    The 64-year-old Republican was first elected to Congress in 1988, taking over the seat once held by another longtime representative, Claude Pepper. She spent eight years before that as a member of both the Florida House and Senate — the first Hispanic woman elected to both chambers.

    Ros-Lehtinen came to America when she was seven years old, immigrating with her family from Cuba in 1960. She would later become an educator after earning degrees from both FIU and the University of Miami.

    A moderate Republican, she has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and said she did not vote for him in the 2016 election. But, she told the Miami Herald that she would be making this move "even if Hillary Clinton were president."

    Ros-Lehtinen became the first woman to chair a congressional committee when she was tapped to lead Foreign Affairs in 2011. Currently, she chairs a subcommittee on the Middle East and serves on the intelligence committee.

    For years, Ros-Lehtinen represented the 18th Congressional district, including Key West — where she became one of the few advocates for the LGBTQ community in her party. Her son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, is transgender and recorded a PSA with his parents to help support transgender youth in the Hispanic community.

    Her current district, the 27th, covers areas including Westchester, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Pinecrest among others. In 2016, she defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman by 10 points — her closest race in years.

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    She's been married to her husband, Dexter Lehtinen, since 1984. The two met while both serving in the Florida House, and now have two children and four grandchildren together.