Spanish-language television journalist Maria Elvira Salazar has won the Republican nomination and former Clinton administration Cabinet member and university president Donna Shalala has won the Democratic nomination for the Miami-area District 27 seat, long occupied by retiring moderate Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The seat is viewed as one of the best chances nationwide for a Democratic pickup in the party's quest to win House control from the GOP.
Hillary Clinton topped President Donald Trump by about 20 percentage points in the district in 2016, even as voters re-elected Ros-Lehtinen.
Going into Tuesday's primary, Salazar had raised the most money, while former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro has more experience. Both have well-known names, especially among Hispanic voters.
"It's Congress, you cannot just go there and start learning how government works," Barreiro said earlier Tuesday. "I bring the experience. I could run from the first day."
"I feel that I’m more than ready, 35 years of journalism and covering the most important political figures of our time got me ready," Salazar said.
In recent days attention had been on former Doral councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a Cuba native who was endorsed by the Miami Herald for the GOP nomination despite her past claims that she was abducted by space aliens at age 7 and has communicated with them telepathically.
"It has nothing to do with me being in Congress," she said in an interview. "It's a non-issue."
Angie Chirino, daughter of Cuban composer and singer Willy Chirino, was also among the nine candidates seeking the Republican nomination. Also running were Elizabeth Adadi, Stephen Marks, Michael Ohevzion, Maria Peiro and Gina Sosa.
On the Democratic side, Shalala defeated four candidates in the race to replace incumbent Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring.
Seventy-seven-year-old Shalala served eight years as President Bill Clinton's Health and Human Services secretary. She also was president of both the University of Miami and the University of Wisconsin.
Shalala banked that voters would see her experience as an asset. The Democratic candidates had similar positions on most key issues, such as tackling climate change, reducing gun violence, improving health care, and overhauling immigration. But none could match Shalala's lengthy record or familiar name.
Shalala voted at a polling place in Coral Gables Tuesday morning.
"You never take any chances, you run like you're 20 points behind," Shalala told reporters. "It's been fun for me."
Asked why she chose to take this fresh path after such a long career, Shalala said: "What I decided in my mind was that I wasn't finished with public service. I wanted to take a shot."
Most polls had Shalala well ahead. Still, her top primary challenger, state Rep. David Richardson, raised three times more campaign cash than she did in the most recent quarter. Richardson, who in 2012 became Florida's first openly gay legislator, was running as a progressive who said he will bring "responsible and forward-thinking solutions" to Congress.
"We’ve had a lot of response at the door over the last six weeks, half of the undecideds have been coming to me so we’ve had a lot of momentum," Richardson said Tuesday.
Another Democrat, former Miami Herald reporter and Knight Foundation program director Matt Haggman, had been running ads attempting to make Shalala's longevity into a negative.
"Donna Shalala, she's had her chance," Haggman says in one TV spot. "It's time for a new day."
Also in the race was Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who resigned to pursue the congressional seat.
"I haven't seen a great enthusiasm for Donna Shalala," Rosen Gonzalez told NBC 6 in May. "I think that a lot of people respect Donna Shalala but I don't think they would like her to be their congresswoman at this moment in time."
Shalala brushed off these challenges. "It's about what you can do for your community," she said.
Shalala said she's confident Democrats will flip the seat from the GOP no matter which Republican is nominated. Part of the reason, she said, is strong Democratic voter enthusiasm traceable to their opposition to the Trump presidency.
"There's no question about it. In all their experience, Trump is their worst nightmare," she said.