Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced in an interview released late Saturday that he would be backing Tim Canova, the progressive challenger running to unseat incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) in the congressional race for Florida's 23rd district.
Wasserman Schultz has been a highly controversial chair of the DNC this primary season, and is widely perceived by many Sanders supporters as rigging the primary to bolster establishment candidate Hillary Clinton over Sanders' progressive campaign.
"Well, clearly, I favor her opponent," Sanders told Jake Tapper of CNN's State of the Union. "His views are much closer to mine than to Wasserman Shultz's."
Canova, who teaches at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, "was asked in 2011 to serve on Sanders' Wall Street reform advisory panel," notes CNN, and his progressive values are closely aligned with those that Sanders has fought for throughout his political career.
Sanders followed up on the CNN interview with a fundraising email on Canova's behalf Sunday morning. In the email, Sanders told his supporters why he supports Canova's candidacy:
The political revolution is not just about electing a president. We need a Congress with members who believe, like Bernie, that we cannot change a corrupt system by taking its money.
So let me introduce you to Tim Canova, a progressive challenger who is running against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a Democratic primary in Florida this year.
Tim endorsed Bernie’s presidential campaign, and was inspired to run because of Wasserman Schultz’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His campaign is funded like ours, by lots of people giving small amounts of money.
And on issues like taking on Wall Street, making tuition free at public colleges, and reforming our broken campaign finance system, he is someone you can be proud to support.
In a statement, Canova responded to Sanders' endorsement and highlighted the connections between their campaigns:
Like Bernie, we are running a campaign that's funded by working Americans, not big corporations or wealthy elites. I know that our coalition of nurses, teachers, students, seniors, and working Americans can come together to undo the damage Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done in Congress and at the Democratic National Committee.
[...] I want to make something perfectly clear: this race is not about Bernie Sanders or the presidential primary. This election is about the future of the Democratic Party and this country. It's a question of whether or not we stand behind our progressive values and fight to make sure working Americans have a fair shot in this economy.
During the State of the Union interview, Sanders also took the opportunity to highlight his displeasure with Wasserman Schultz's tenure as DNC chair.
"And let me also say this," Sanders said. "In all due respect to the current chairperson, if elected president she would not be reappointed to be chair of the DNC."
Journalists and commentators Bill Moyers and Michael Winship outlined the recent ways in which Wasserman Schultz has so aggrieved Sanders supporters during this primary—such as her defense of the contentious rule-changes and dubious voice votes at Nevada's chaotic Democratic convention:
Wasserman Schultz claims the party rules over which she has presided (and manipulated) are “eminently fair.”
[...] In response to the DNC chair’s remarks, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver talked to CNN, too, and said Wasserman Schultz had been “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning… Debbie Wasserman Schultz has really been a divider and not really provided the kind of leadership that the Democratic Party needs.”
The Nation’s Joan Walsh, a Clinton supporter critical of the Sanders campaign, concurs: “Once again, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz escalated a conflict that she should have worked to defuse,” she writes. “… Wasserman Schultz is not helping her friend Hillary Clinton with her attacks on Sanders. Just the appearance of fairness can go a long way in assuaging worries about fairness. Wasserman Schultz’s defiant rebuke to the Sanders camp has made it worse.”
So, too, has her abolition of the restraints that had been placed on corporate lobbyists and big money — now they can write checks bankrolling what doubtless will be swank and profligate parties during this summer’s Democratic National Convention. At The Intercept, Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report that a number of the members of the Philadelphia host committee “are actively working to undermine progressive policies achieved by President Barack Obama, including health care reform and net neutrality. Some… are hardly even Democratic Party stalwarts, given that many have donated and raised thousands of dollars for Republican presidential and congressional candidates this cycle.”
This is a slap in the face to progressives calling for a halt to big money and allowing lobbyists to buy our elected officials. And it’s contrary to what Hillary Clinton herself has said about money and politics on the campaign trail. The Sanders movement has shown that lots of cash can be raised from everyday people making small donations. His supporters and all of us should be outraged that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and convention officials have kowtowed not only to the corporate wing of their own party but also to those high rollers who back the opposition and ideas antithetical to a democracy.
In a statement to NBC, Wasserman Schultz "said she has been neutral in the race and would remain so despite Sanders' support of Canova."
"Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the Presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall," read the statement, according to NBC.