U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will hold a town hall on the Zika virus Monday morning at a Pembroke Pines senior center about 20 miles northwest of the epicenter of the local outbreak.
The Zika virus may not be among the top concerns for many of these western Broward seniors since only two of the 16 locally acquired cases have been in Broward while the rest have been in Miami-Dade. In total, there are 422 cases, most of them acquired while traveling. The list includes 55 women who are pregnant and the most at risk because the virus can cause severe birth defects.
But for Wasserman Schultz, the event at the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center puts her in front of a reliable fan base: Democratic voters who often turn out in primaries. She needs those voters now more than ever before because for the first time in more than two decades she faces a Democratic challenger: Tim Canova, a first-time candidate and Nova Southeastern University law professor from Hollywood. The last time the Weston Democrat faced a primary was in 1992 when she ran for the state Legislature. The Democrats are competing for attention in the Aug. 30 primary although many voters are already casting ballots by mail.
Zika funding has become a frequent political topic. Candidates and politicians have used the virus to attack opponents or political parties and have portrayed themselves as fighting to combat the virus. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton visits a clinic in Miami’s Midtown neighborhood.
Congress went on recess without passing President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in Zika aid. Wasserman Schultz is expected to highlight her efforts to direct money to combat Zika, including co-sponsoring an amendment to add emergency funding which was voted down along party lines.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly called on the federal government to provide more funds. Florida has received more than $8 million from the Centers for Disease Control.
In June, the state allocated $26.2 million but as of Friday the state had released $1.9 million. Of that, $316,800 went to Miami-Dade County and $221,635 went to Broward. The money is for prevention and test kits, insect repellent and other mosquito control efforts.
In recent months, Wasserman Schultz has largely avoided joint appearances with Canova and instead has stuck to events such as the Zika town hall which are filled with her loyal supporters. Last week Wasserman Schultz said she would debate Canova but no specifics have been announced yet.