Former Cabinet secretary Donna Shalala has filed papers to run for Congress in a Miami district considered one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities this fall.
Shalala, 77, served with President Bill Clinton as the secretary of Health and Human Services from 1993 until 2001, and later became the president of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015. She was also the chief executive of the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
Shalala, who plans to release a campaign video announcing her candidacy on Wednesday, joins a crowded field of Democratic candidates vying for a district that is considered a likely Democratic pickup in the fall elections. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the district by nearly 20 points in the 2016 election.
The seat is held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), 65, the first Cuban American elected to Congress, who is retiring after 28 years in Congress.
Five of the Democrats in the race raised more than $500,000 in 2017 for their campaigns, with state Rep. David Richardson pulling in more than $1 million. The only Republican candidate to raise more than $250,000 in the same period was Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. The primary election will be held on Aug. 28.
A poll commissioned in January by the firm Bendixen and Amandi, which is advising Shalala, found that none of the other Democratic candidate are as well known in the district as she is. The poll also found that 78 percent of the district’s voters had an unfavorable view of President Trump, compared with 19 percent who had an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton.
During her tenure at the University of Miami, Shalala was a noted fundraiser who broke ground on several new buildings on campus and increased the school’s ranking in the U.S. News and World Report list of best universities.
Her time at the school was marred by an athletics scandal when it was revealed in 2011 that a wealthy school booster had entertained men’s football and basketball players at his home, on his yacht and in clubs and restaurants in violation of college league rules. An investigation by the NCAA found that the university “lacked institutional control” of the athletic programs for a decade during Shalala’s time running the school.
In 2015, Shalala suffered a stroke after a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. She recovered and continued to lead the Clinton Foundation until 2017, during a period when the activities of the organization became a focus of Republican attacks against Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.