MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida is a congressional battleground state especially the race for the District 27 seat in Miami-Dade County where the Democratic Party is seeking to retake control of the US House.
Democrats are banking on former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala while Republicans are behind Cuban-American broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar.
This highly competitive seat is open following longtime Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s decision not to seek re-election.
In the August primary, Shalala, also a former University of Miami President, got 32-percent of the vote in a five-way field. In the Republican primary, Salazar picked up 41 percent of the vote in a field of nine.
The Democrats are targeting the seat because Hillary Clinton carried the heavily Hispanic district by a margin of 58 percent to 39 percent over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Despite being well-known, Shalala finds herself in a tight race against Salazar, a political rookie.
The district encompasses Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Little Havana. It is 72 percent Hispanic.
Shalala, 77, served eight years as President Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services secretary. She also was president of both the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin.
This is Shalala’s first run for elected office. She has campaigned on her experience and knowledge of many key Democratic issues, such as health care, immigration reform and preventing gun violence.
Shalala, who during her time under the Clinton administration helped push for an assault weapons ban and the introduction of federal background checks and waiting periods on gun purchases, has been vocal in her support for gun control and universal healthcare.
Shalala believes climate change “is the biggest planetary challenge we face in the 21st Century” and we need to “invest in clean energy infrasatructure, facilitate and encourage the installation of solar panels in as many American homes as possible and progressively tighten efficiency standards as they pertain to transportation, housing and workplace,” according to her website.
The 56-year-old Salazar has worked in Spanish-language broadcast news since 1984 and interviewed Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the mid-1990s, one of the few reporters to score a one-on-one interview.
She has styled herself as an expert on Latin American affairs and the U.S. Hispanic community and has emphasized conservative positions on issues such as creating jobs, improving education, reforming health care, and opposing abortion in most cases.
She has also said she would consider an assault weapons ban, support a carbon tax and vote to give certain groups of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
Third party candidate Mayra Joli is an immigration attorney who is running as an independent.
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