Race to replace Ros-Lehtinen now a toss-up, influential report says

Experts say Shalala's lack of Spanish language skills has hurt her

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

Voters will choose between Democrat Donna Shalala, left, and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, right, in November.

MIAMI - An influential political report says the race Florida's 27th Congressional district has tightened, now calling the contest between Democrat Donna Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar a "toss-up."

The district, which favored Hillary Clinton by more than 19 points, had been seen as an easy win for Democrats. The winner will replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who is retiring after 28 years in Congress.

"This is simply a case of a bad candidate match up for Democrats: Shalala, 77, would be the second-oldest House freshman in history and suffered a stroke in 2015 shortly after becoming head of the Clinton Global Initiative," David Wasserman wrote in the Cook Political Report. "She's also seeking to represent a 76 percent Latino district despite not speaking Spanish. Meanwhile, Salazar is a well-known bilingual Univision/Telemundo reporter who has been savvy in attracting free media."

Republicans initially struggled to recruit strong candidates for the race, but ultimately Salazar entered the race late and won. In contrast, several high-profile Democrats sought the seat, but the well-funded Shalala, the former president of the University of Miami, narrowly won the August primary.

Internal polls now show a close race, unnerving some Democratic Party officials who have complained that Shalala's campaign is in "sleep mode."

Meanwhile, Salazar is actively campaigning in the district and has the endorsement of Ros-Lehtinen.

“Donna needs to rescue this campaign. And now she needs to do it in two languages,” Spanish and English, Grant Stern, a Democratic Party official in Miami-Dade County told Politico


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