‘Intelligence and passion’: Donna Shalala endorses A.J. D’Amico for Florida House

A.J. D'Amico Alessandro James
“A.J. ... represents the future of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade and Florida."

Former U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala is supporting Democratic lawyer Alessandro James “A.J.” D’Amico in his bid this year to represent Key Biscayne and part of Miami and Coral Gables.

Shalala, who served under former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, cited D’Amico’s efforts to expand Medicaid in Florida among her reasons for supporting him in a Thursday statement.

“(He) is a bright, fresh face who will bring intelligence and passion to the Legislature,” Shalala said. “A.J., a youthful Cuban American, represents the future of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade and Florida. I am proud to support and endorse (him).”

Shalala joins Democratic Rep. Nick Duran in backing D’Amico’s House bid. D’Amico is running for the seat Duran has held since November 2016. Duran announced in October that he would not seek a fourth and final term.

That opened the door for D’Amico, a member of the Coconut Grove-based law firm Mase Mebane Seitz since November, to run for a newly mapped House District 113. He’s running against Republican Antonio Byrdsong.

Since filing to run in August, Byrdsong poured nearly $7,000 into his campaign up through Dec. 31. He also accepted about $28 in outside contributions.

D’Amico, conversely, amassed more than $35,000 between his late November campaign launch and the new year. His gains came primarily through roughly 100 individual donations ranging from $10 to $1,000, mostly from the legal profession.

D’Amico’s past legislative experience includes an internship under former Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and a nearly three-year stint as a legislative assistant to former Sen. René García, who has since been elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission.

D’Amico also served as the elected editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review from February 2019 to May 2020, and worked as a legal intern at the Florida Justice Institute Inc. and an associate at international legal giant Holland & Knight.

In a statement, D’Amico said of Shalala’s endorsement: “I am beyond proud to have earned the support of Congresswoman Shalala, a pillar of the Miami community, irrespective of party. She and I share a commitment to expanding health care access — especially the long overdue expansion of Medicaid in Florida, which I will make my top priority in the Legislature.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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