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Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaigns for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. (Photo: Reuters)

Establishment Darling Debbie Wasserman Schultz Defeats Progressive Challenger

But 'the very fact that this race was competitive sent a powerful message to the corrupt political establishment'

Deirdre Fulton

The Democratic establishment notched a victory in Florida's 23rd Congressional District on Tuesday, as incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz soundly defeated progressive challenger Tim Canova.

With all precincts counted late Tuesday night, former Democratic National Committee chair Wasserman Schultz—who was ousted from that post right before the party convention in July and now has a role in Hillary Clinton's campaign—had roughly 57 percent of the vote to Canova's 43 percent.

But "[e]ven in the face of a loss," the Sun Sentinel reported, "Canova told supporters...that he saw a victory for the cause of reclaiming democracy from 'the corporate oligarchy'."

"Look how far we've come," the first-time candidate said. "We're fighting for American democracy. This is a rigged system and everyone knows it."

And in his concession speech, Canova couldn't help but lob one more dig: "I will concede Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a corporate stooge," he said.

Backing from Bernie Sanders and his grassroots supporters afforded Canova, an unknown law professor, both momentum and an unusually large war-chest; his campaign raised more than $3 million from small donors and forced Wasserman Schultz to fight for her seat for the first time in 24 years. 

That in itself was a victory, said Rob Davis, coordinator for the Florida chapter of the grassroots anti-corruption group Mayday.US.

"Despite falling short, the very fact that this race was competitive and forced Debbie Wasserman Schultz to defend her record and campaign for the first time during a primary sent a powerful message to the corrupt political establishment and put others on notice, you can't back big money over the people and not face consequences on Election Day," Davis said.

However, writing at the Atlantic, associate editor Clare Foran wondered if Canova suffered from a lack of clarity as Sanders' campaign transitions to its next phase: the Our Revolution effort to elect progressives up and down the ballot, across the country. 

"A number of staffers who resigned from Our Revolution in protest over how it has been run say the organization's 501(c)(4) status made it impossible to coordinate strategy with the Canova campaign, leaving the campaign worse off as a result," Foran reported. "At least some departing staffers believe the organization should be set up under a different legal structure so that it can coordinate with candidates it endorses in the future and do more to help them win."

"I would absolutely say the prohibition on coordinating hurt the Canova campaign," Paul Schaffer, the former data and analytics director for Our Revolution, said to Foran.

Still, as Canova told reporters at Kasa Champet, a Haitian restaurant in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday, "Life knocks us on our ass a lot of times. Everyone gets knocked on their butt a lot of times. The test of character is getting back up on our feet and this movement has been knocked off its feet time and time again."


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