Is Debbie Wasserman Schultz 'Dodging Debates' With Progressive Challenger?

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Is Debbie Wasserman Schultz 'Dodging Debates' With Progressive Challenger?

'Voters rightfully expect you to defend your record as their U.S. Representative and to appear before them in public debates and town halls,' says Tim Canova

Progressive Tim Canova is challenging establishment incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the August 30 Democratic primary. (Photos: TimCanova.com + Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

On the same day he filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, congressional candidate Tim Canova questioned whether the incumbent congresswoman indeed plans to debate him as promised before the August 30 Democratic primary.

Six-term U.S. Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said last week she would debate her progressive challenger, a law professor who is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and—as of Monday—the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.

"Unfortunately, in the eyes of so many, your decision to continue dodging debates reflects contempt for fair and open elections and for democracy itself."
—Tim Canova

But while Wasserman Schultz told a Local 10 News reporter Monday that "we're working out those details," Canova wrote in an open letter on the same day that he has "still not heard from you or anyone on your campaign about setting a schedule for debates."

"Perhaps you have no intention of debating at all and that this was simply a smokescreen," he wrote, noting that he initially pitched a series of six debates with Wasserman Schultz. "I understand. It's a strategy used by many entrenched incumbents who are fearful of having to defend their records."

He continued: "Tens of thousands of voters have already signed petitions calling on you to debate me. Perhaps we will have them delivered to you as your silence continues. Voters rightfully expect you to defend your record as their U.S. Representative and to appear before them in public debates and town halls."

"Unfortunately, in the eyes of so many, your decision to continue dodging debates reflects contempt for fair and open elections and for democracy itself," Canova concluded.

Also Monday, Canova's campaign filed an official FEC complaint (pdf) charging Wasserman Schultz with improperly leveraging her position within the DNC to work against her primary challenger—a grievance based on correspondence unearthed in the pre-convention DNC email leak that cost Wasserman Schultz her position in the party

"The emails establish that on numerous occasions the DNC, under Wasserman Schultz's direction and control, used its resources to track my campaign, interfere with my campaign events and to assist the Wasserman Schultz campaign in her personal communications strategy," Canova said.

"The emails alone establish a pattern of wholly improper conduct on the part of Wasserman Schultz and clear violations of federal elections and campaign finance laws," he continued.

"She repeatedly used her position as DNC chair for unfair advantage for her congressional campaign," the candidate said. "She sought to use DNC resources to appropriate party fundraising opportunities for herself. And she abused her authority by bullying the media to stifle negative reporting on her divisive conduct at the DNC and to encourage positive reporting on her congressional campaign. Wasserman Schultz's conduct while head of the DNC reflects poorly on her judgment and character, and has unfortunately brought shame and disgrace to our district here in South Florida."

The Wasserman Schultz campaign said there was "no merit to this complaint"—and that a debate schedule will be announced this week. 

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