National Politics

Canova announces rematch against Wasserman Schultz

U.S. congressional candidate Tim Canova and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz shook hands after they debated each other on CBS4's ‘Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede’ on Aug. 14, 2016.
U.S. congressional candidate Tim Canova and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz shook hands after they debated each other on CBS4's ‘Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede’ on Aug. 14, 2016. Miami Herald File Photo

Tim Canova announced he will seek a rematch against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz after decisively losing to her August, weeks after she hit a political low point after stepping down as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“A year ago the eyes of the nation were on this race and the stakes were very high,” Canova said at a Broward Democratic progressive caucus meeting in Plantation Thursday night. “I say the stakes are still very high. We’ve got a president right now and a Congress, Republican dominated, that are pushing the most rabid inhumane radical type of agenda that I could have ever imagined.”

In 2016, Canova tapped into Bernie Sanders’ small donors and anger at the political establishment to raise about $3.8 million in the race for South Florida’s 23rd congressional district. A Nova Southeastern University law professor, Canova ran to the left of Wasserman Schultz by bashing her for taking money from corporate donors and big Sugar.

But Wasserman Schultz, first elected to Congress in 2004, drew support from Democratic heavyweights including President Barack Obama and focused on her long record supporting liberal causes such as abortion and gay rights. In August, she won by about 14 percentage points in the Broward/Miami-Dade district and then easily defeated Republican Joe Kaufman.

The question now is whether Canova’s prime opportunity to unseat Wasserman Schultz has passed.

The moment for him has passed. A lot of the energy is now on resisting Trump and fighting the health care bill and the Russia investigation.

Mike Nellis, who headed up Tim Canova’s online fundraising campaign

David N. Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said this rematch is an even bigger longshot for Canova than his first bid.

“Not only are other ‘new candidates on the block’ likely to become progressive darlings and sap his fundraising potential, but much of the Bernie base's anger is now directed more at President Trump than Hillary Clinton/DNC,” he said.

In 2016, Canova’s campaign got a major boost when Sanders endorsed Canova on CNN. His second major victory came when Wasserman Schultz resigned her national chair position on the eve of the Democratic Convention after Wikileaks posted emails showing the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders.

But about a week before the primary, when it was clear that Sanders wasn’t coming to Florida to campaign for Canova, he grew defensive.

"You tell me why he isn't coming," Canova told reporters at the time. "I don't have an answer to that. I am very proud to have his support. Quite frankly we don't need him here to win this election."

When asked by the media Thursday if he had spoken with Sanders about this race, Canova replied: “No comment.”

Mike Nellis, who headed up Canova’s online fundraising through Revolution Messaging in 2016, said there isn’t the same widespread anger about Wasserman Schultz now. (The same firm did work for Sanders.)

“His attack on Bernie Sanders at the end of his race last year was not a wise move on his part," said Nellis, who isn’t working on Canova’s 2018 campaign. “I think a lot of the anger he capitalized on was about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and it’s not there. The moment for him has passed. A lot of the energy is now on resisting Trump and fighting the health care bill and the Russia investigation."

Nellis said Canova also hurt his credibility by spreading conspiracy theories about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

In January, Canova wrote on Facebook that Rich “may have been the Wikileaks source of the leaked DNC emails. He was gunned down, assassinated under suspicious circumstances just days after publication of those leaked emails.”

When asked Thursday night by the Miami Herald if he thinks Rich was killed because of the DNC email leaks, he said “I have no idea” and said the media was trying to pin him down on an issue not of concern to those outside the Beltway.

There is no evidence to bolster that theory, which has also been peddled by some right-wing pundits. Newt Gingrich said on Fox in May that Rich “apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments. … It turns out, it wasn’t the Russians.” PolitiFact rated Gingrich’s statement Pants on Fire.

In his announcement speech, Canova focused on many of the issues of his last race: his pledge to not take corporate money and to fight for the working class by speaking out about student debt, the need to give seniors on Social Security a raise and to fight for the environment.

Wasserman Schultz is likely to employ a similar strategy as she did in 2016: Ignore Canova and focus on bashing Republicans. Last time, she resisted Canova’s call for multiple debates and faced off against him only once.

A statement issued by Wasserman Schultz’s spokesman David Damron made no mention of Canova and instead vowed to beat back the “dangerous and damaging policies of the Trump-Republican agenda.”

“So no matter who I face in the primary or the general election, I'll focus, as I always do, on expanding affordable quality healthcare and protecting our environment, as well as advocating on behalf of the interests of working Americans, students, seniors, women and children,” she said.

This year, Wasserman Schultz has focused her energies on criticizing Trump, including his Muslim ban, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, firing FBI director James Comey and his promise to repeal Obamacare.

She largely holds events in front of friendly audiences such as a meeting with Jewish community leaders about bomb threats, gathering with local government officials to strategize about Trump’s immigration actions or appearing alongside Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with leaders of the LGBTQ community.

Wasserman Schultz raised $269,000 through March. Canova opened a campaign account in September but has not raised money so far.

Canova has stayed politically active since losing by forming a group, Progress for All, which has advocated for various causes, including protesting the Sabal Trail Pipeline, a 515-mile pipeline to transfer gas from fracking through Florida’s aquifer, a source of the state’s drinking water .

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