Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala is struggling to keep up with her Trump-supporting Republican rival in a district that overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
The 77-year-old Shalala, who served as Department of Health and Human Services secretary for the Clinton administration, was supposed to easily snag a win in Florida’s 27th Congressional District and become the “second-oldest House freshman in history,” but recent polls indicate she’s neck and neck with her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar.
In November 2016, voters in the Miami-based 27th District cast a ballot in favor of Clinton by a margin of nearly 20 points. So when Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she wouldn’t seek re-election, Democrats considered the Miami-based 27th District to be “their easiest pickup of the cycle” — that is, until last week.
In an analysis for The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman indicated Florida’s 27th went from Democratic-leaning to a toss up after two GOP-sponsored polls indicated Salazar is in the lead. Politico reports that internal polls from both campaigns show the Spanish-speaking Republican either leads or is just barely behind Shalala.
Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 percentage points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday. In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by 4 percentage points.
Wasserman writes that Shalala’s inability to speak Spanish in a district that’s 76-percent Latino is hurting her, especially because she’s paired against Salazar, a former news anchor for the Spanish-language news channel Univision/Telemundo.
“Donna needs to rescue this campaign. And now she needs to do it in two languages,” Spanish and English, Grant Stern, a local Democratic Party leader, told Politico.