Wasserman Schultz can still do a good job

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Wasserman Schultz
Wasserman Schultz

This is a reliable Democratic district where six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has never faced a primary challenger until now. Given that history, newcomer Tim Canova has done Democrats a service by offering them a clear primary choice.

At first, the 56-year-old law professor’s decision to jump into the race seemed bizarre. After all, Wasserman Schultz is a popular and well-connected political figure, the only Florida Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. She’s held elected office for nearly a quarter-century, and her liberal views reflect those of a majority of district voters.

Mr. Canova, however, has run a surprisingly effective campaign. He’s taken full advantage of the rise of a strong progressive tendency among Democrats that lifted the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders and believes Ms. Wasserman Schultz, who turns 50 in September, is a bit too well-connected to the rich and powerful. He claims she belongs to an establishment beholden to special interests.

Chairing the Democratic National Committee certainly raised her national profile. But serving two masters — the national party plus a congressional district — is not a good idea for any member of Congress.

It left her vulnerable to the charge that she’s lost touch with her district and led to the embarrassing scandal that forced her to resign as party chair because she appeared to take sides against Sen. Sanders.

Mr. Canova’s attacks against her on these grounds have taken a toll on her popularity.

His campaign has benefited by financial contributions from Sanders supporters around the country.

But we doubt that any of this makes a huge difference to most voters in District 23. A poll released by Mr. Canova’s own campaign shows her ahead 46 percent to 38 percent at the end of July. What voters want to know is why they should change representation in Congress, and on that ground Mr. Canova has failed to make a strong case.

Do they differ on some issues? Sure.

He is clearly in favor of the medical marijuana amendment. She is a bit fuzzy on that, but voted against it in 2014. He’s an outspoken foe of the free-trade pact for the Pacific region (TPP). She supported it in the past, but told the Editorial Board to put her down as undecided now.

Generally, however, they share similar left-of-center views on the big issues important to Democratic voters. That includes gun control, infrastructure spending, a woman’s right to choose, the environment and green energy, expanding Obamacare, higher taxes on the wealthy and immigration.

Both are strong supporters of Social Security and are against Republican efforts to privatize it.

And both are reliably pro-Israel. Ms. Wasserman Schultz voted for the Iran nuclear pact — a tough call, but the right one. Mr. Canova has criticized various aspects of the deal, but his campaign site says he supports its full implementation.

Mr. Canova is sharp, well-informed and intelligent, particularly well-versed on economic issues. We hope he remains interested in public service.

But the bottom line is this: District 23 already has a strong and effective representative in Congress. Rep. Wasserman Schultz is too good a politician to lose touch with her district.

Her seat on the Appropriations Committee ensures that Florida’s interests are not overlooked when lawmakers decide how to spend federal funds.

It’s a seat worth keeping, and so is she.

In the Democratic primary for Congress, District 23, the Miami Herald recommends DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ.