In an apparent effort to boost the visibility of a low-profile contender going after a potentially vulnerable incumbent, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday added Gloria Romero Roses to its list of "emerging races" that could help the party regain control of the U.S. House.
Roses is a relatively unknown candidate running against Republican Congressman David Rivera in a Miami-area district that the incumbent captured in the GOP tsunami of 2010.
Roses is managing partner of Nexus Homes, LLC, and touts her work with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and on education issues.
Despite state and federal investigations into Rivera's finances, Democrats have missed out on drawing a higher profile candidate into the contest, especially since state Rep. Luis Garcia quit the race after a falling-out with the DCCC. Florida investigators confirmed last week that Rivera will not face state charges in their probe.
But Robby Mook, executive director of the DCCC, said candidates like Roses were "secret weapons" in their bid to take control of the lower chamber. Indeed, he cast Roses' lack of elected experience as a benefit in the race — giving her the mantle of a problem-solver compared to Rivera's ethical baggage.
"She is not a partisan divider," Mook said. "She is not an insider politician."
Roses said she was someone "living the American dream with my family," but worried that the policies that made that dream possible for some were in danger. She slammed Rivera for supporting Republican efforts to overhaul Medicare while opposing an extension of the payroll tax cut and also took a swipe at the Republican's ethical issues.
"Unfortunately, we've had a leader in Washington that's been a little bit busy ... defending himself in a corruption scandal," she said.
Attempts to reach Rivera's campaign for a response were unsuccessful.
Before Tuesday's announcement, some observers were surprised that Democrats had not been able to lure a more popular name into the contest.
"Because of some of the problems that he's had ... you would think he would be a lot more vulnerable," said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.
But Steve Schale, a Democratic campaign consultant, said Roses was worth being placed on the emerging races list. He said that if she does well in fundraising and puts together a solid organization, she could build up the name recognition necessary to topple Rivera.
"Candidate quality is not measured by how well people in Tallahassee know who you are," he said.
And he said the demographics of the district and Rivera's well-publicized problems were still enough to make it likely that the race will be competitive in November.
"At this point, there's really no reason to think it won't be," Schale said.