President Barack Obama has endorsed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who faces a rare primary challenge for her Broward/Miami-Dade congressional district.
It’s no surprise that Obama endorsed his Democratic National Committee chair since 2011 — but it shows that she is facing a challenge worth paying attention to from Nova Southeastern University professor Tim Canova.
In a written endorsement, Obama called Wasserman Schultz a “progressive leader.”
“She always stands up and fights for what is right for her district while passionately supporting middle class families,” the president’s statement said. “Throughout my time as President I have seen Debbie bring an unwavering commitment to her family, her constituents, and our shared goals of protecting seniors, supporting working families, and expanding economic opportunity for more people. I strongly endorse her reelection to Congress and look forward to her future service on behalf of the people of South Florida.”
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Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston, was first elected to Congress in 2004 and since that time has not faced a primary challenge. She has easily beaten GOP challengers by landslides in one of the most left-leaning districts in South Florida.
Canova’s campaign resembles that of the presidential candidate he supports: Bernie Sanders. A first-time candidate, the Hollywood resident emphasizes issues such as campaign-finance reform and income inequality, and has attacked Wasserman Schultz's positions on issues such as opposing the medical marijuana ballot initiative in Florida in 2014.
Her critics on the left say that Wasserman Schultz has favored Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary with the initial limited debate schedule — an accusation she has denied. The Sanders campaign was among those that called for more primary debates, and the DNC eventually gave in and scheduled more.
Canova faces an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz, who has already raised about $1.1 million toward her re-election. Canova recently tweeted that he had received donations from more than 20,000 individuals but we won’t know the total dollar amount until his first fundraising report is due April 15.
Canova, who has support from some progressives in the party and has been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America and National Nurses United, has drawn national media attention. Last week, the Florida Democratic Party agreed to give him access to the voter data file after initially refusing to provide it. The party has not shared that data with primary congressional challengers in recent years, but after Canova waged a campaign for it on social media and in person at a Broward Democratic dinner the party reversed its position — but only for him.
Wasserman Schultz has sided with Obama on most issues, but didn't embrace his recent trip to Cuba.
When asked before the Democratic debate in Miami last month about Obama's trip to Cuba she said she had no interest in visiting the island, “not until they make more human rights progress.”