CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Donna Shalala said she is ready to be the Democrat who will represent Florida's 27th Congressional District and succeed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The former University of Miami president was ready to run for office Monday, and she released her first campaign video Wednesday saying that she hadn't planned to run for congress. She said the more she watched the news after President Donald Trump was elected, the more the updates made her angry.
"Everything we fought for through out our lives is under attack under the slogan 'Make America Great Again,'" she said. "We know what great is: Creating good paying jobs, fairness in immigration, investing in education, access to affordable health care for all, the rights and dignity of women and the LGBTQ community, taking care of our environment and protecting our most precious resource -- our children."
This is the first time the 77-year-old Coral Gables resident runs for office, but not the first time she has been involved in fundraising and politics. Shalala, who was born in Cleveland and is of Lebanese descent, shared her family's story to appeal to South Florida's large immigrant communities.
"My grandmother who lived in Miami most of her life couldn't get in on Ellis Island," Shalala said. "They actually turned her away and so she went all the way around and snuck across the Mexican border --my Lebanese grandmother. And so, I identify with every immigrant that's here in this country."
She was the Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. President George W. Bush awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom about seven years later.
After leaving UM, where she served from 2001 to 2015 when she suffered a stroke, she served as president of the Clinton Foundation until 2017.
Shalala will face criticism over her handling of custodial workers' protests over low pay and lack of health insurance. After the custodial workers' strike in 2006, Shalala raised wages. Her work with the UnitedHealth Group and the Lennar Corporation will also prove challenging for her campaign.
Craig Smith, a prominent Democratic political strategist who was the White House political director during the Clinton administration, and Mark Diaz, UM's former vice president of budget and planning, will be working for her campaign.
Shalala joins a large group of Democrats seeking their party's nomination and she brings the name recognition that none of her opponents have. The crowd includes former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, former judge Mary Barzee Flores, Miami commissioner Ken Russell, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Hepburn and Rep. David Richardson.
"Donna had an opportunity many years ago to be a champion for Medicare for all," Richardson said in a campaign video.
Willy Chirino's daughter Angie Chirino and Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro are seeking the Republican party's nomination.
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