Campaign

Former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala wins Democratic House primary in Florida

Democrat Donna Shalala, a Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary under former President Clinton and a longtime educator, won her House primary on Tuesday.

Shalala emerged from a crowded Democratic primary in Florida's 27th District with 32 percent of the vote, The Associated Press projected with 95 percent of precincts reporting. 

The former Clinton official will face off against Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in the race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in November.

Shalala, who served as HHS secretary over the entire eight years of Clinton's tenure, was long considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But she faced opponents, including Florida state Rep. David Richardson, who campaigned as a progressive and attacked Shalala from the left.

 Another Democrat in the race, former Knight Foundation program director Matt Haggman, went after Shalala for her years of experience in Washington, insisting that it was time for new leadership.

After leaving Clinton's administration in 2001, Shalala served as the president of the University of Miami for 14 years.

Ros-Lehtinen's planned retirement has bolstered Democratic hopes in Florida's 27th District. Hillary Clinton beat President Trump there by nearly 20 points in 2016, making it a key target for Democrats as they seek to retake control of the House in November.

The Cook Political Report currently rates the race as "lean Democratic."

Shalala will face Salazar, a longtime broadcast journalist, who was urged to run for the seat by Ros-Lehtinen when she decided to retire after serving in the chamber for nearly 30 years.

Over the course of her 35-year broadcast career, Salazar snagged interviews with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the late Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet. She overcame a crowded field of Republican challengers to secure her party's nomination.

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