Donna Shalala

U.S. Congress District 27

Professor at University of Miami

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

This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.

Last year, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she wouldn’t run for re-election in the 27th congressional district, opening up the seat for the first time since 1989.

Based on the questions you said you had for the candidates, we recapped their stances on the following issues: guns, immigration, climate change and the environment, and criminal justice. The winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries for this seat will face off in the November general election.

Donna Shalala’s been a big player in Democratic party politics for decades. Locally she’s best known for her 14-year stint as the president of University of Miami (from 2001 to 2015), but she has a major national profile as well: 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.

All that time in public office hasn’t been without controversy, though – Shalala has been hit for some decisions made while at UM, including her opposition to custodial workers’ strike for a living wage and benefits, and she’s chummy with the Clintons. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you ask.


NRA grade: F

Shalala supports banning assault weapons; expanding background checks; closing the gun show, Internet sales, and “Charleston” loopholes (which allows people to buy a gun if the background check isn’t completed within a certain number of days); and increasing access to mental health services. She is calling on corporations to divest from gun manufacturer stocks in order to put pressure on the gun industry and the NRA to compromise on certain policies.

She’s the only Democrat who stated her support for the Second Amendment on her website – probably a sign she’s already looking to the general election and the need to win over gun rights advocates.


Shalala, a child of immigrants herself, wants to “provide sanctuary where we can to upstanding members of our community.” In another nod to the general election, Shalala calls for “pressuring dictatorial regimes through sanctions and diplomatic strength.” Outgoing representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a staunch supporter of the embargo on Cuba and sanctions on countries like Iran and Venezuela.

On ICE:  Unlike some of her opponents, Shalala hasn’t come out in favor of abolishing ICE since that became a Democratic rallying cry.

On DACA and immigration reform: She wants Congress to renew DACA and provide a permanent pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and their families. She also supports extending TPS and providing a pathway to legal residency for TPS recipients.


Shalala’s environmental record is shaky. While she was the president of UM, she sold a tract of rare pine rocklands preserve owned by the university to private developers.

On renewable energy: Shalala fought to install solar panels on the White House when she worked at HUD. Her website doesn’t have any details on her present support for renewable energy.

Criminal justice issues

She does not mention these issues on her website, and she hasn’t stated any explicit positions on criminal justice issues in recent debates.