Donna Shalala has a conundrum.
In her bid to flip a Miami congressional seat once thought an easy pickup for Democrats, she’s struggling with Hispanic voters. But to woo a majority of the district, she must venture onto Spanish-language television and debate a former Spanish-language broadcast journalist who couldn’t be more at home in a studio.
For the second time in four days, Shalala and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar were beamed Tuesday into the living rooms of Florida’s 27th congressional district. With independent candidate Mayra Joli standing between them, they sparred for an hour from Univision 23’s Doral studios while making their case to serve as the successor to retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
And once again, Shalala was on Salazar’s home turf, listening to her opponent’s interpreted comments through an earpiece and speaking to viewers through a translator. “I’m here for this debate in Spanish, although my Spanish is not very good,” she said.
Before either had even introduced themselves, Salazar put Shalala on the defensive, immediately ripping into the former University of Miami president during her opening comments over the Democrat’s announced appearance Wednesday with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and California Congresswoman Barbara Lee — who reportedly said when Fidel Castro died that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”
“It seems to me that Mrs. Shalala should reconsider and cancel that press conference,” said Salazar, who is a Republican Cuban-American. “That is an offense and a lack of sensitivity to prisoners, to those shot, to the exiles who live here in the city of Miami.”
Shalala, who had not yet uttered a word, said she didn’t know what Salazar was talking about — even though the press conference was scheduled at her own campaign headquarters. Shalala’s campaign said later that the candidate was thrown off by a muddled translation in her earpiece.
“I definitely don’t know anything about that press conference,” said Shalala. “But I absolutely oppose the Cuban government.
It was a rough start for a campaign that says it does not yet have a date set for an English-language debate as the two campaigns fight over dates. The night also ended strangely, with Joli accusing Salazar of being funded by the Illuminati and Shalala by the Clintons.
Click here to read the rest.