November 6, 2018 at 8:26 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Shalala elected to succeed Ros-Lehtinen in Fla.
Donna Shalala, gay news, Washington Blade

Donna Shalala will succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in Congress. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

MIAMI — Democrat Donna Shalala on Tuesday defeated Republican María Elvira Salazar in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Shalala defeated Salazar by a 52-46 percent margin.

Shalala, the former Health and Human Services secretary during the Clinton administration who was president of the University of Miami from 2001-2015, in August defeated openly gay state Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th congressional district.

Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba and has an openly transgender son, is among Congress’ most vocal supporters of LGBT rights. Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement in 2017.

Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, told Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, during an interview after Shalala’s election that Ros-Lehtinen “is a woman who knew how to be a leader.” Lima also described Ros-Lehtinen as a “defender of the community in general, of immigrants, of the LGBT community, of children.”

“I think that Shalala is going to continue doing a lot of what Ileana started,” Lima told Tremenda Nota. “What excites me about Shalala is that she is very similar in her ideals.”

Lima introduced Shalala at her victory party. Lima during the interview with Tremenda Nota also applauded Congresswoman-elect Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who defeated Cuban American U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) in the state’s 26th congressional district.

“It is important to have progressive voices (in Congress) like that of Shalala,” said Lima, referring to President Trump.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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