South Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which includes a large part of Miami, had been represented by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen since its creation following the 2010 census. Ros-Lehtinen decided to retire in 2018, Florida Democrats knew the open seat would be a tremendous pick-up opportunity, especially if we nominated the right candidate.
Donna Shalala, a former cabinet secretary and university president, had the strength, experience, and gravitas to give South Floridians who oppose the White House’s positions on health care, the environment, nativism, and gun safety a real voice in Washington. Working on her behalf, we needed to illustrate that for primary voters who had five viable options on the ballot.
We had to turn what could have been a liability—in an electorate hungry for change, Shalala was by far the oldest of the five candidates—into a strength.
It was a strategy that worked in the general as well as the primary. Shalala secured the nomination and, in November, beat a well-known local TV personality by over 15,000 votes to flip the seat and help flip Congress.