In one of the most closely watched congressional primaries in the nation, Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated her Democratic challenger, law professor Tim Canova, 57 percent to 43 percent, to win another two-year term representing Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.
Wasserman Schultz has held her suburban Fort Lauderdale-based seat since 2004 and had never been challenged in a primary election until Canova’s emergence this year.
“The result was so incredibly gratifying,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It really fills my heart to know the people I have represented said with this margin and this vote that ‘We know her and we have been able to count on her for all these years and we want her to keep fighting for us.’ They aren’t going to let millions of dollars from people outside the state decide who is going to represent our community in Washington.”
Tapping into the same anti-establishment fervor that catapulted Bernie Sanders to national prominence, Canova was able to raise an astonishing $2.8 million in his effort, receiving 200,000 individual contributions, what his campaign called a record amount in a congressional campaign.
A good deal of that support came from outside the district, from Democrats angered at Wasserman Schultz for what was perceived to be her bias in favor of Hillary Clinton during the presidential primary campaign, specifically in the DNC’s scheduling of the debates.
The low point for Wasserman Schultz during the campaign came last month when she resigned as the head of the Democratic National Committee the day before the Democratic convention, after leaked emails showed DNC staffers disparaging the Sanders campaign. The next morning, she was unceremoniously booed off the stage at the Florida delegation breakfast and had laid low the rest of the week in Philadelphia.
But while her reputation might have been wounded nationally, the sentiments inside CD 23 were quite different. And national Democratic leaders such as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and John Lewis all traveled to Miami to campaign for her — while Sanders opted not to do the same for Canova.
“There’s no one tougher than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. No matter what is thrown her way, Debbie gets back up and keeps fighting,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “She’s been a lifelong champion of our party’s progressive values and I congratulate her on tonight’s victory. Florida Democrats are proud to stand with Debbie and we look forward to her continued work on behalf of the people of Florida’s 23rd Congressional district.”
Canova had produced one internal poll that showed him down by eight points. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel poll had her up by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent, while a poll produced by a super PAC working for Wasserman Schultz had her up by more than 30 percentage points.
“Losing sucks. But we came a long way in a short period of time,” tweeted Mike Nellis, Canova’s digital fundraising manager.
Wasserman Schultz will face Republican Joe Kaufman in November. He lost to Wasserman Schultz by a 63 to 37 percent margin in 2014 in the 2-to-1 Democratic district.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.