Democrats had been counting on flipping the seat held by retiring South Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen with ease, especially with former U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Donna Shalala as their candidate. But polls show Republican Maria Elvira Salazar is right on Shalala’s heels and South Florida airwaves are now filling up with attack ads.

Democrats and their allies are trying to tie Salazar to President Donald Trump while the GOP and its supporters are bashing Shalala for scheduling an event with U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. who has been supportive of the communist regime in Cuba. Lee did not attend the actual event.

This week, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC tied to the GOP U.S. House leadership, released radio ads hitting Shalala.

“Donna Shalala is just another politician who puts herself first,” said Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the CLF. “As president of the University of Miami, Shalala lived in a $9 million mansion, but only paid university janitors $7 an hour while denying them health insurance. Donna Shalala is out for herself, not Floridians.”

“Donna Shalala is another politician who puts herself first,” the narrator of the ads says in a translation provided by the CLF. “As president of the University of Miami, Shalala lived in a nine-million dollar mansion.But only paid university janitors seven dollars an hour while denying them health insurance. The scandal made national news and Shalala was called an enemy of the working poor. Donna Shalala is out for herself.”

With Shalala trying to link her to Trump, Salazar’s campaign tried to get in front of a Tweet from their candidate in which she posted “Bravo Trump” and ran an ad on it.

“In a video, Shalala criticized Maria Elvira for saying ‘Bravo Trump’ in a tweet. What Shalala left out of her negative ad was the fact that Maria Elvira’s comment was in reference to President Trump’s meeting with Lilian Tintori, the wife of the most important Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez,” the Salazar camp insisted.

“Shalala has proved once again that she does not understand the concerns of this community. I know how my Venezuelan brothers and sisters feel. I sympathize with their pain and suffering. That is why I have been and will continue to be a firm supporter of the Venezuelan opposition, and I will applaud any act of solidarity and support toward them,” Salazar said.

“This is why we are all tired of Washington politicians,” Salazar says in the ad. “My opponent attacks me because I thank President Trump for meeting in the White House with the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, the most important political prisoner that Venezuela has today. It is precisely because of this lack of sensitivity and solidarity that those who are oppressed are so alone. I am Maria Elvira Salazar and I approve this message, because the Washington elites will never understand who we are or what worries us.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) did not back off,  hitting Salazar on the Tweet in a new Spanish languae ad of its own.

“He likes to tweet.  A lot,” the narrator of the ad says in a translation provided by the DCC. “So does Maria Elvira Salazar- a loyal Trump follower. Salazar tweeted out ‘Bravo #Trump.’ She praised Trump when he signed a law that will raise taxes on middle class families. And raised healthcare premiums. And she’s endorsed by a group that wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare. ‘Bravo #Trump?’ More like – Maria Elvira Salazar is hashtag With Trump not Miami.”

“Whether it’s increasing taxes on hardworking families or raising the cost of their health care coverage, Maria Elvira Salazar will always side with President Trump and Washington Republicans’ agenda over the needs of the people of Miami,” Javier Gamboa, a spokesman for the DCCC. “Salazar has shown, time and time again, that she will be just another Republican politician that’s out for herself, putting at risk programs like Social Security and Medicare. Voters know that Maria #BravoTrump Salazar is #ConTrumpNoConMiami, and they will elect Donna Shalala to Congress this November.”


Kevin Derby can be reached at


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