Donna Shalala has been campaigning to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress for less than a month and already she’s raised more than $1 million, her campaign announced Thursday.
Her first-quarter total — an eye-popping number even for the woman who helped raised billions for the University of Miami — immediately gives her one of the fattest war chests in a crowded Democratic primary. The funds should help her capitalize on her name, which an internal campaign poll showed is well known in the district following years of work at UM and as health and human services secretary under Bill Clinton.
“The moment she officially announced her intentions to run for this seat, contributors at all levels and across party lines eagerly stepped forward to assist the campaign with their financial support,” Fernand Amandi, a consultant for the Shalala campaign, said in a statement.
It’s unclear how much of the haul, if any of it, is self-loans, although the campaign’s release says the $1.17 million she’s reporting was in the form of contributions. Other campaigns were watching this week to see how much money Shalala would report as she came out of the gate, and whether she would invest her own money.
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Shalala, 77, began advertising last month, rolling out a television commercial just two weeks into her campaign. Messaging will likely be key in the sprawling Miami-Dade district of about 750,000 people, and her opponents have shown they won’t shy away from attacking her record, age and politics.
One of those opponents, state Rep. David Richardson, raised more than $400,000 during the first quarter of the year, bringing his cash on hand to $1.1 million. He’s said that Shalala’s candidacy has emboldened a grass roots campaign, and says more than 18,000 people have donated during the three most recent fundraising quarters. The vast majority contributed $50 or less, his campaign says.
Other candidates in the race include Mary Barzee Flores, Michael Hepburn, Matt Haggman, José Javier Rodríguez, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Ken Russell. Combined, the field has raised millions, with many yet to report their first quarter totals in 2018.