Donna Shalala wins Florida House race as 1st-time candidate

Donna Shalala, whose résumé 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 longtime 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.

Donna Shalala waves during a political event in Miami. (Photo: Matrix/MediaPunch/Getty Images)
Donna Shalala waves during a political event in Miami. (Photo: Matrix/MediaPunch/Getty Images)

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 10 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.”

Though her public service résumé 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 “turned 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 had made her angry: “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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