Florida Dem congressional hopeful accused of dodging English-language debate

Democratic congressional hopeful Donna Shalala has debated her GOP opponent in Spanish twice. But when it came time for a possible English-language debate, Shalala wasn’t there.

Republican Maria Elvira Salazar appeared on a Channel 10 Sunday morning program – where the two candidates had been given the invite to debate in English, according to the Miami Herald. But Shalala wasn’t present because of an apparent scheduling conflict.

“Donna Shalala is not here sitting across from Maria Elvira Salazar. All we can say is we tried our best for weeks to arrange a legitimate debate here on this program,” Michael Putney, co-host of “This Week in South Florida,” reportedly said. “It went back and forth on which dates were accessible.”

The Miami Herald noted Shalala appeared on Univision 23 Miami Sunday morning during Salazar’s appearance on Channel 10.

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“I want the viewers to understand that my opponent Mrs. Shalala has been saying that I did not want to debate her in English,” Salazar, a Spanish-language journalist, said. “We had two debates – one in Telemundo, another on Univision. You’re a witness that I texted you right after the primary, and I said I was going to be very happy to come and do the first debate, or the only debate in English on this program.”

On Twitter, Salazar claimed Shalala "chose to play games and dodge the debate."

Shalala’s campaign has been critical of only doing debates in Spanish – especially as she doesn’t speak the language, the Miami Herald previously reported.

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Salazar has maintained the absence of an English-language debate wasn’t her fault, but that of a lack of stations requesting one, according to the newspaper.

The 27th congressional district, where GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring, is primarily made up of Hispanic residents, particularly of Cuban descent.

Despite her name recognition, Shalala has faced a tight race in a district that Hillary Clinton won by a 20-point margin over President Trump in 2016. Shalala is a former Health and Human Services secretary under the Clinton administration and previous president of the University of Miami.

Fox News has ranked the race a toss-up.