The race in Florida’s 23rd congressional district sets the stage for what could be a monumental victory for Bernie Sanders’ political revolution. The Vermont senator’s endorsement of Tim Canova in May translated into $637,000 in small campaign donations, and Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail on Wednesday to ensure Canova’s defeat.
On August 30, Democrats in Miami will head to the polls and choose between the incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova, a first-time candidate and law professor with a grassroots movement behind him.
In April — long before the DNC email leaks led to Wasserman Schultz’s abrupt resignation just hours before the party’s convention — she told Fox Business that Sanders was not using his fundraising to help down-ballot Democrats. On Tuesday, Sanders decided to do exactly that with an email blast to supporters with the subject line “Defeating Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”
“The recent emails leaked from Democratic Party staff showed that under Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC staff were not exactly fair and even-minded during the presidential primary. What was revealed wasn’t much of a shock to us, because we knew all along that the establishment wasn’t on our side. But now that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned we have the opportunity to transform the Democratic Party and open up its doors to working people and young people — people who want real change.”
Clinton hired Wasserman Schultz within 24 hours of her resignation to be the honorary chair of her campaign, and on Wednesday, Clinton hit the stump calling on all Florida Democrats to re-elect her.
“I’m here to urge you to keep doing what you’re doing every single day on behalf of Debbie,” Clinton said to supporters during a two-day swing through Florida. “I want to have her in the congress by my side, working day after day, to actually implement the agenda that we are fighting on her behalf.”
At the heart of the Canova and Wasserman Schultz’s primary are the same issues that caused tension between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns during the Democratic primaries. Wasserman Schultz has shown support for the TPP, whereas Canova has called for campaign finance reform. The list of similarities goes on. Three of Sanders’ closest advisers have even joined Canova’s campaign showing signs that the race is tightening. Julian Mulvey, Tad Devine, and Mark Longabaugh are currently working to boost Canova’s media presence and the Tampa Bay Times reported that the latest poll shows him only back by eight points, explaining why Clinton and Sanders are stepping up efforts for their preferred candidates.
On Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz released a statement that she has accepted an invitation to debate Canova this Sunday on a morning news program. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Canova hasn’t accepted the invitation yet, but Wasserman Schultz’s spokesman Ryan Banfill isn’t worried.
“I believe he’s been saying he’d debate ‘anytime, anyplace’ for the past six months. The congresswoman looks forward to discussing the issues important to the people of the district on Sunday morning,” he said.
Wasserman Schultz’s announcement comes on the heels of Canova formally filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks prove the former DNC chair illegally abused her power and should be investigated.
“It is now clear our opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, improperly and illegally abused her position at the Democratic National Committee to coordinate against our campaign,” Canova said in a statement.
Wasserman Schultz responded to the FEC complaint saying there was “no merit” to Canova’s claims.
“She doesn’t need a spokesperson, but rather a lawyer,” Canova told The Hill. “Unfortunately, Wasserman Schultz is the one wasting constituents’ time and money. Last year, she had the 2nd highest absentee rate of the 27 members of Florida’s Congressional delegation. Instead, she spent her time engaged in shameful misconduct as chair of the DNC.”
Tensions are high in Florida’s 23rd district at the moment. The debate this Sunday should make that abundantly clear. Will Bernie Sanders’ emails give Canova enough money to pull ahead at the last second? Will President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and now Clinton’s public support be enough to keep Wasserman Schultz’s job for a seventh term? We will soon find out the answer to both of those questions.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]