Donna Shalala wins Florida’s 27th Congressional District 2018 Midterm Election

November 21, 2018 News , OPINION/NEWS , United States

MH photo



Kanwal Abidi



The heated, historic 2018 Midterm Elections brought another race between Donna Shalala and Maria Salazar to its final countdown. The two dynamic women hailing from the 27th Congressional District in Florida battled to gain a congressional seat.


The beauty of this congressional district is not its strategic location on a panhandled Florida, but that it carries a historic, statistical value. As a result of the 2010 Census, a new 27th district was created in South Florida during 2012, which became effective for the 11th Congress on January 3, 2013. It contains a large part of the city of Miami, as well as all of the municipalities of Miami Beach, Coral Gables, West Miami, South Miami, Pincrest, Palmetto Bay, Key Biscayne and North Bay Village.


It is a politically hot district, which is predominant in the 71% Hispanic population out of a total 747,049 people living in the 27th congressional district. So this makes it a heavily Cuban-American neighborhood and is referred to as Little Havana of Florida.


The incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, republican Congress women from the 18th District was seated in January 2013 in this “redistricted district” and on April 30, 2017 – announced that she would not run for re-election in the 2018 midterms.


Thus, in March 2018, Ms Shalala announced her candidacy in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional district. This district voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, but its house seat was held by Ms Ileana.


In an interview with CBS Miami, Ms Shalala stated that she supported universal healthcare coverage, but opposed a Medicare for an all single-payer healthcare system because she believed that individuals who liked their current employment-based healthcare plans should be able to keep them.


In August 2018, Ms Shalala won the Democratic primary, thus paving the way to challenge Ms Salazar in one of the most heated midterm congressional races.


Both contestants rolled up their sleeves to dive into a pool of public love for them. They both campaigned with their utmost capacity, banking upon their individual ideologies to canvass people to help them “swing the votes” to their “red or blue” political advantage.


For these feminists, yet – head strong ladies – age factor became a point of major conflict. A wide age gap between Ms Shalala, who is 77 years of age, and Ms Salazar who is 56 years of age, came into the limelight during their campaign trail.


Ms Salazar was referred to as more of a people’s person, who gained popularity as an “apron-clad woman” serving Cuban coffee to breakfast patrons and speaking with them in Spanish. At a local restaurant, she urged one of the senior citizen ladies to spread the word about her candidacy and said “if I do not win, the old lady, the socialist and the la vieja – might win.”


Ms Shalala responded well on the Ms Salazar attacks on her age factor and said “What is (she) going to attack me on – I’m old?” She reflected that in 2015, she had a stroke which she survived and stated that her mother lived to be 103 years of age.


As Maria Salazar tried to portray herself as a centrist and candidate who might back a ban on assault weapons and citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, Ms Shalala tried to tie herself to President Trump and said she voted for him in 2016 “because she was afraid that Hillary was going to get indicted.” A third candidate, Mayra Joli, who is running without party affiliation, is an unabashed Trump supporter and managed to secure 6,255 votes.


Donna Shalala, who was the health and human services secretary under President Bill Clinton and a former president of the University of Miami, had unparalleled fund-raising expertise and a well recognized name that was thought would win her the mandate, and despite a strong presence, since 1989 of a republican to Congress, Ms Shalala succeeded in trending on a blue wave!


In June 2008, Donna Shalala was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. In 2010, she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York in 2011. In 2014, she was recognized by the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum with the Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award. Ms Shalala has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and has prominent representation in many think-tanks based in Washington D.C.


The campaign staff at Ms Shalala’s watch party was hopeful about her victory. A volunteer from Shalala’s campaign, who was looking after food and beverage for the guests, excitedly referred to the presence of foreign journalists as a sign that “we are famous and will win.”


Later, in the night, Ms Shalala walked in with such grace and confidence, which prompted many to gather around her to have selfies and handshakes. Her stride spoke of her style as a leader and her campaign staff and guests were hopeful, Ms Shalala would be their voice at Capitol Hill – to advocate for women’s rights and universal health care coverage.


And their hopes were answered when Ms Shalala, aged 77, lifted the “victory cup” of the 27th congressional district race, making her the second oldest freshman Representative in history.



Results of 27th Congressional District, Florida:

Candidate Party Votes Pct.
Donna Shalala Democrat 130,671 51.8%
Maria Elvira Salazar Republican 115,575 45.8
Mayra Joli Independent 6,255 2.5






Kanwal Abidi

Senior White House Correspondent and Bureau Chief, Washington D.C.

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