Shalala Criticized for Skipping Debate

Frontrunner in race for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat said she told organizers she had prior obligations

Donna Shalala said “There will be lots of time to debate” after she didn’t attend one between Democratic candidates for retiring Rep. Ilean Ros-Lehtinen’s seat on Tuesday. (Aaron Davidson/Getty Images file photo)

Some Democrats in Florida’s 27th District criticized frontrunner Donna Shalala for disrespecting organizers of a debate by skipping it on Tuesday.

Shalala defended her decision not to attend, the Miami Herald reported, saying, “There will be lots of time to debate.”

The former University of Miami president said she still had obligations to the university until the end of the month.

“My team has known for a long time that I had something on my calendar that I could not change,” she said.

But candidate David Richardson accused the former Clinton administration secretary of Health and Human Services of “backtracking.”

“What disappoints me most is that Democratic primary voters will be once again let down by Donna’s inability to fight for the community she professes to care so much about,” he said.

Another of the four candidates who did show up, Matt Haggman, said it was “disappointing that Donna Shalala decided to skip a debate tonight with the people doing the hiring.” 

Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, told the Herald he regretted not informing the other candidates that Shalala would not attend and tried to convince her campaign to change her mind.

“We thought it would be unfair to the other candidates to reschedule the debate based on Donna’s schedule,” he said.

Longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced last year she would not seek re-election in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton by 20 points.

Since she announced her candidacy in March, Shalala is seen as the clear frontrunner in a major pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Florida's primary is on August 28, 2018.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Florida’s 27th District as Lean Democratic.


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