Wasserman Schultz’s problems aren’t over yet

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's political troubles aren't over yet.


The Florida Democrat is facing the toughest political race of her life after ending her controversial tenure as leader of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Her House seat is on the line in a primary race against well-funded challenger Tim Canova, and the battle is heating up amid the fallout from her resignation following the leak of hacked emails that showed DNC officials plotting to undermine Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Obama speechwriter Favreau: 'Hilarious' some media outlets calling Harris a moderate Trump to counter DNC with travel to swing states Progressives look to flex their muscle in next Congress after primary wins MORE's (I-Vt.) presidential campaign in the Democratic primary.

Some think the race has changed after the former chairwoman’s tough week.

“I think this has really shifted the race,” said Kathryn DePalo, a political science professor at Florida International University. “I think she’s going to have a tough fight. I think she’s probably going to win, but it’ll be close.”

She added that a Canova victory would not be a surprise. “I think that’s how devastating these email leaks have been,” DePalo said.

Wasserman Schultz was booed off the stage by Sanders supporters at the Florida delegation breakfast on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week.

“The constant refrain that I heard is she can eke it out,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at University of South Florida in Tampa.

But MacManus said it won’t be without a fight.

“She’s got to come home and work her constituency,” she said. “She hasn’t had to for years.”

State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Clinton delegate whose district overlaps with Wasserman Schultz’s congressional district, also attended the breakfast and brushed off the prospect that this will hurt Wasserman Schultz's reelection bid.

“Most people understand Debbie as someone who is very caring,” Sobel said. “She’s part of the fabric of our community.”

Canova has been trying to build momentum.

He’s already raised an eye-popping $2.3 million since entering the race in January, and his alignment with Sanders has won him attention and an endorsement from the senator himself.

Canova said he’s been nonstop campaigning for the past eight months as he criss-crosses the district to meet as many constituents as possible. The DNC leak exudes her “bad judgment” and has rallied more people to his campaign, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot of energy come our way,” Canova told The Hill. “We built a very good field operation to ride the wave that’s come in now.”

A political consulting firm run by top aides to the Sanders campaign has joined Canova. The firm, run by Tad Devine, Julian Mulvey and Mark Longabaugh, was tasked with handling advertising as well as advising Sanders during the primary.

One big question is whether Sanders will campaign for Canova in Florida.

Canova said he spoke to Sanders’s campaign manager before the convention and that talks will continue, but no plans have been confirmed.

Wasserman Schultz, the state’s first Jewish congresswoman, is a well-known fixture in her predominantly Jewish district. Her campaign did not return a request for comment.

She also appears to have an advantage in that her constituents voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in the March primary.

Those who live in her district describe her as a tireless campaigner who’s well liked and well known.

Some observers are skeptical Canova can win in a summer primary that will likely have low turnout.

“While I’m sure that there is some impact, I don’t think that we should overstate the impacts because I think that the folks in her home district are the ones that know her the most,” said Ashley Walker, a Florida Democratic strategist.

Wasserman Schultz’s main priority will be to engage with constituents and have a constant presence in her district. Her campaign will also have a bit of catching up to do: Canova’s campaign has been running TV and radio ads for the past three weeks.

“I think she needs to get out there face-to-face, get out to the groups all over the district,” DePalo said. “That’s the way I think she can turn things around is being out there.”

Even with all eyes suddenly drawn to the race, it’s still difficult to predict the outcome with no polling currently available. But if someone is able to unseat Wasserman Schultz, observers say it’s Canova.

“If anyone’s going to beat her, it’s a Democrat from her left with $2 million,” said Kevin Hill, a political science professor at Florida International University.