Donna Shalala

District 27


University of Miami professor

Former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, former U.S. Secretary of Health, former president of University of Miami

Donna Shalala secured the Democratic nomination in the August primary, riding a wave of name recognition and a heavy fundraising advantage. She’s probably best known to locals for  her 14-year stint as the president of University of Miami, from 2001 to 2015, but before and after that she developed a major national profile in the Democratic party.

She served as the assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter and the U.S. Secretary of Health under President Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. She also led the Clinton Foundation from 2015 to 2017.

She’s faced stiff competition from Republican candidate Maria Elvira Salazar.

Based on the questions you had for the candidates, and factoring in some relevant topics, we sent questionnaires to the candidates and asked them questions about the following issues: the environment, criminal justice reform, gun control, the economy, healthcare, Puerto Rico, and immigration.

Thanks to readers Vanessa Haim and Marianna Yerak, and others who submitted questions anonymously.

 How do you think the state should address the growing algae blooms along the coasts?

For South Florida, climate change is life-or-death. We see it in sea level rise. We see it in the increasing intensity of deadly hurricanes, and we see it in the growing algae blooms. We need a comprehensive plan to address fertilizer runoff, modern water management systems, full funding for Everglades restoration, among other efforts.

Where do you stand on Everglades restoration and how do you plan to improve water quality across the state?

I have long worked on Everglades restoration, and will continue this hard work when I get to Congress. We need to protect our Florida ecosystem and environment. We need to improve water quality by protecting our aquifers such as the Biscayne Aquifer, which is being threatened by climate change.

Do you believe in man-made climate change and sea level rise? (yes/no)

How do you plan to mitigate the effects of climate change and build Florida’s resiliency?

The first step is fully rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. Congress must combat Trump’s systematic rollback of vital EPA protections and regulations. Additionally, we need to increase our use of renewable energy in Florida.

What’s your response to calls for ending the use of private prisons?

I am strongly against the use of private prison, but this is only a piece to the puzzle in seriously reforming our criminal justice system.

What does effective gun reform look like to you? Do you think the reforms passed at the state or federal level in the wake of Parkland are sufficient?

It was a good first step, but we must do more. I was proud to be part of the team that passed the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, and we can do it again. We must also close loopholes, expand background checks, and create better streamlined, seamless mental health services.

What plans do you have to boost Florida’s economy and encourage smart job creation?

For too many working families, the American dream is slipping away. Low wage jobs, wage stagnation and high healthcare costs have forced many people to work harder than ever, not to get ahead but just to survive. I will fight to build an economy that invests in people, not in tax cuts for the wealthy. Smart, strategic investments that include an education system that prepares our children for the jobs and industries of the future; building a strong local infrastructure of roads, bridges, mass transit options, airports and seaports that allows the movement of people and goods throughout our region and investments in a social safety net that allows everyone in our society to enjoy a decent minimum standard of living.

What does an effective healthcare system look like to you?

To continue working towards universal, high-quality, affordable healthcare for Floridians and all Americans, I will defend and improve the Affordable Care Act; create a “Medicare Option for All” by enhancing Medicare to better cover routine dental and vision, and long-term care, and make it available to anyone regardless of income, immigration status, or age. At the same time, preserve employer coverage as an option for those Americans satisfied with their current coverage; reduce prescription drug costs, along with other out-of-pocket expenses like copays and deductibles.

How much support should the federal government offer to Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria?

I support our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, but sadly this Administration does not. We must continue supporting Puerto Rico’s humanitarian needs, while making it more resilient to future natural disasters.

What does effective immigration reform look like to you?

I will work to mend our immigration system so that America can remain a beacon of hope to the world. We must continue to welcome those seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families with fairness, dignity, and compassion. We must protect and unify families – not tear them apart. I will fight to defend DACA and protect DREAMers, Extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) where applicable and provide a pathways to citizenship. We must also pressure dictatorial regimes through sanctions and diplomatic strength, but not punish their citizens or those seeking freedom and opportunity in the United States.

Do you support the presence of sanctuary cities?

Miami has a duty to protect its citizens. Many in South Florida have fled dictators and violence in search of a better life. We must ensure access to education, social services, public safety, and affordable health care to all families, regardless of immigration status.

Do you support calls to abolish ICE?

Rather than abolish ICE, we should abolish Trump’s evil policies. That means voting for Democrats to recapture Congress as a check on Trump’s power and electing a Democratic president in 2020. The immoral policies of the Trump administration and his political appointees who head ICE are the main problem, not the agency or its thousands of employees.

What action do you think the government should take on DACA?

We must protect and unify families – not tear them apart. I will fight to defend DACA and protect DREAMers, and we have to take care of their families as well through pathways to citizenship.