Donna Shalala wins Florida House race as first-time candidate

Donna Shalala, whose resume already includes secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, president of the Clinton Foundation and president of the University of Miami, is now adding a new title – Congresswoman.

She won a close race in the 27th district of Florida, a long-time Republican district that has trended increasingly Democratic in recent years. Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar for the open seat, which had been held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for nearly 20 years.

Shalala, 77, will be a freshman in a body where the average age is 20 years younger. She spent time during the campaign reassuring voters that her age was not an issue, casting it as experience.

“It would take anyone else ten years to get where I am, to get that stature with others in Congress and hit the ground running,” she said. “I know the players, I know the issues, the system, how you put together legislation, how you develop policy.”

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Donna Shalala wins Florida House seat
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Donna Shalala wins Florida House seat
Former President Barack Obama, second from right, hugs Congressional candidate Donna Shalala, second from left, during a campaign rally, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, left, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., right, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
FILE- In this Oct. 17, 2018 file photo Florida Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala, speaks to volunteers in Coral Gables, Fla. Shalala is facing GOP candidate Maria Elvira Salazar. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
Florida Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala, right, poses for a selfie before a forum on education sponsored by the Women's Fund, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Florida Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala arrives for a forum on education sponsored by the Women's Fund, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Florida Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala, center, listens during a forum on education sponsored by the Women's Fund, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Florida Democratic congressional candidates Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, left, Donna Shalala, center, and Mary Barzee Flores, right, share a laugh as they participate in a news conference against a Republican lawsuit that seeks to end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic candidate for Congress Donna Shalala speaks with supporters during watch party on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Florida Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala attends a protest at the Miami International Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Democratic candidate for Congress Donna Shalala's wrist bands fill tables for supporters at a local restaurant Ball and Chain before Shalala speaks during watch party on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Though her public service resume is long, she is technically among the wave of women who were on ballots for the first time this year. In an interview with Yahoo News earlier this month, she said she decided to run for elected office back in February, when she “tuned on my television and just got pissed off,” she said. She doesn’t even remember exactly “which of the endless parade of things” she was angry about on that particular day, but she is clear about who she was at. “The Republicans. And the President,” she said. “I wasn’t too happy with my own party either. I thought ‘shoot, I can do this job.’”

The district she represents, encompassing Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Little Havana was carried by Hillary Clinton by 20 points in 2016.

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