Democrat Donna Shalala Beats GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in Florida

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Joe Raedle/Getty, Lynne Sladky/AP

Democrat Donna Shalala is projected to defeat Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), turning Florida’s 27th congressional district blue, according to NBC News.

Shalala will succeed longtime Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in a demographically diverse district, which includes Miami Beach and Coral Gables. “Close to 60 percent of registered voters in the district are Latino, and the majority are Cuban-American,” NBC News reports.

Shalala faced a field of four other candidates in the district’s Democrat primary, including a state lawmaker who has been gaining on her in the fundraising chase but who lacked her name recognition. Asked why she chose to take this fresh path after such a long career, Shalala said: “What I decided in my mind was that I wasn’t finished with public service. I wanted to take a shot.”

Shalala, former president of both the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin, banked on her experience to win voters over. While her Democratic rivals took similar positions on most key issues — tackling climate change, reducing gun violence, improving health care, overhauling immigration — none of the others could match Shalala’s lengthy record or familiar name. She also served as President Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services secretary for eight years.

“Our theme is basically, ready on day one,” she said in a recent interview. “That sends a message to them as well.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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