Wasserman Schultz won't get party money for primary fight

Wasserman Schultz won't get party money for primary fight
© Greg Nash

PHILADELPHIA — The head of the Democrats' campaign arm said Monday that the party has no plans to spend money to help embattled Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) weather a tough primary challenge in her Florida district.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said the party would provide technical and logistical support as Wasserman Schultz squares off against primary challenger Tim Canova, a populist liberal in the mold of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Nina Turner responds to Cornel West's remarks about George Floyd COVID-19 pandemic will shrink economy by trillion in next decade: CBO MORE (I-Vt.).

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But, he quickly added, the DCCC will reserve its war chest to defend the most vulnerable Democrats and try to pick up seats currently held by Republicans — not to defend Democratic incumbents from primary challenges in blue districts. 

“It's a Democratic district, and typically our resources go — when you talk about financial resources and TV buys — those go to the most competitive races in America. … That's the priority that we have as a committee,” Luján told reporters gathered in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. 

“That's what we've been doing and will continue to do that. I don't know if there will be a change.”

Kelly Ward, executive director of the DCCC, echoed that message.

“We have an infrastructure that incumbents are welcome to participate in. We have staff that know how to run campaigns. So when incumbents have questions about technical campaign [issues] … we are happy to help them and give them good advice and guidance,” Ward said. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz clearly knows how to do that; she knows how to run a campaign, so she hasn't needed our technical assistance in the same way that some of the other state incumbents sometimes do.

“We never spend money on the safe seats,” she added. 

Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has come under heavy fire in recent days after thousands of internal emails suggested that the party, rather than playing neutral arbiter through the presidential primary, had favored Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines The Memo: Trump lags in polls as crises press Biden savors Trump's latest attacks MORE, now the presumptive nominee, over Sanders. 

Released Friday by WikiLeaks, the emails have infuriated Sanders and his supporters, embarrassed party leaders, compromised the show of unity the Democrats had hoped to project in Philadelphia, and raised real questions about the future of Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign her DNC post, effective at the end of this week's convention. 

The DNC on Monday issued a statement offering “a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email.”

“These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process,” the DNC said.

Wasserman Schultz's name did not appear in the statement.

Luján on Monday condemned the emails, adding that Wasserman Schultz's resignation was “the right decision.”

“Those emails should have never been written,” Luján said. “They don't have any place in this conversation or the discourse. And mainly the email that I'm referring to is the one that was talking about Sen. Sanders and religion. That was — it was ugly.”

The email scandal has been an enormous setback to the Democrats' plan to portray the party as a unified force on the heels of last week's boisterous Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where party members remained at stark odds over the nomination of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE for president.

Luján said Democrats have no plans to change their message, predicting the party would move beyond the email scandal and rally behind Clinton by week's end. Paradoxically, much of their success could hinge on the message of the figure who was slighted: Bernie Sanders. 

“I'm looking forward to Sen. Sanders tonight speaking to the American people and uniting us,” Luján said. “If Sen. Sanders wasn't at the convention, wasn't speaking tonight, wasn't going to endorse Secretary Clinton, I think then that there may be something to the question. But he's going to help us.”