Donna Shalala files to run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's House seat

Veteran Republican congresswoman's district expected to flip to Democrats

MIAMI – Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Shalala, a Democrat, served as Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton. Well-known in the region, Shalala, 77, is considered a top choice for the Democratic nomination. 

With access to the Clinton family's big-pocketed donors, Shalala has the potential to be a formidable fundraiser.

But some of her strengths could be also be weaknesses. 

Another Democrat in the race, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, told Politico earlier this year said that Shalala represented the "elite" of the party.

Shalala was popular during her tenure at the University of Miami, but she also weathered a number of scandals. In one case, environmentalists criticized Shala after she sold a piece of land for development that they said should have been preserved.

Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican, is leaving Congress after 28 years in office. Most political observers see her district as an easy win for Democrats in November. The district favored Hillary Clinton for president by 19 points. 

Republicans have had troubling recruiting high-profile candidates. A number of GOP officials told the Miami Herald in January that the seat was "unwinnable."

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and children’s advocate Angie Chirino are currently running for the Republican nomination. 

Meanwhile, the race has attracted a host of candidates on the Democratic side.

Other Democrats running include former Judge Mary Barzee Floes, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez, state Rep. David Richardson, former Miami Herald reporter and Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell.

That crowded field may narrow now that Shalala has entered the race.