Shalala beats Salazar to flip key Miami House district

Shalala beats Salazar to flip key Miami House district
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Democrat Donna Shalala delivered her party a key victory on Tuesday, defeating Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in a district that Democrats had been gunning to flip. 

She will succeed retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Bottom Line MORE (R-Fla.), who has represented voters in the district for three decades. 

The race between Shalala and Salazar was seen not only as an indicator of Democratic strength in the Miami-area district, but a test of shifting demographics and the weight of a candidate's ethnicity in Miami-Dade politics.

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Shalala, a former Health and Human Services secretary in the Clinton administration, does not speak Spanish in a district where nearly 60 percent of registered voters are Latino. 

Salazar is a former Spanish-language broadcast journalist and, like many of the voters in Florida's 27th District, is Cuban-American. 

But Democrats were optimistic about their chances of flipping the district in recent years. Court-ordered redistricting in 2015 made it more-friendly territory for the party, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren policy ideas show signs of paying off Biden at campaign kickoff event: I don't have to be 'angry' to win Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem MORE carried the district in 2016 by roughly 19 points.

For weeks, Democrats privately fretted that Shalala's campaign had failed to gain traction with voters, while Republicans touted Salazar as a perfect candidate for the district. 

More recently, however, Shalala made gains in the polls. The Cook Political Report moved the race last month from the "toss-up" column to "lean Democrat."