After receiving criticism for accepting financial support from a Castro sympathizer, Donna Shalala, currently running to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District seat, announced at the end of the week that she would not be returning the $2,000 that Barbara Lee, the Castro sympathizer in question, donated to her campaign.Lee is a California congresswoman who drew controversy after praising Fidel Castro in 2016 by telling the San Jose Mercury News that “we need to stop and pause and mourn his loss,” and that she felt “very sad for the Cuban people.”
She elaborated by explaining that Fidel Castro “led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people,” and she called him a “smart man” who “wanted normal relations with the United States, but not at the expense of the accomplishments of the revolution.”
In addition, Lee also donated $3,5000 to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign. And, Mucarsel-Powell also announced that she would not be returning the money.
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Jose Luis Castillo, a spokesman for Maria Elvira Salazar, Shalala’s opponent in the race, ripped Shalala for agreeing to campaign with Lee and refusing to return the money. Castillo explained that Shalala’s “total disconnect and lack of empathy with this community is appalling. Barbara Lee’s longtime admiration for Fidel Castro is deeply offensive to the Cuban community, as well as all freedom-loving people everywhere.”
Also, Courtney Alexander, the communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, blasted Shalala, explaining that “As her underperforming campaign continues to struggle, it’s become crystal clear that Donna Shalala just doesn’t understand the Miami community and the 27th district. This week, Shalala even associated with a Congresswoman who praised Fidel Castro and defended the ruthless Maduro regime in Venezuela. This is a slap in the face to exiles in Miami — South Florida voters deserve better than Donna Shalala.”