U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was making the rounds in her South Florida district today -- including an event for Equal Pay Day -- when we caught up with her about her primary opponent.
For the first time since winning her seat since 2004, Wasserman Schultz faces a primary opponent -- and he has been drawing national attention.
Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern Law professor from Hollywood, said he raised $557,000 during his first quarter of 2016. Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, raised $1.1 million through 2015 and about $614,000 so far in 2016. Campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission Friday so the totals are based on comments by the campaigns. (Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes, also a Democrat, ended his bid for the Broward/Miami-Dade seat.)
Canova has modeled his campaign themes from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and has focused on issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality. He has also attacked Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans.
Canova faces an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz who has long roots in the district dating back to the 1990s when she served in the state Legislature. President Barack Obama endorsed her re-election in March.
Here is a partial transcript of our conversation with Wasserman Schultz about her primary race:
Q: How does it feel to have your first primary opponent for re-election?
A: “It’s no different than any other election I have. I have been on the ballot virtually every time. I do the same thing no matter whether I have primary opposition, general election opposition which is all through the year I try to make sure that I am out there in the community talking to my constituents about the job I am doing and answering their questions and trying to be the best representative that I can be. Then hopefully every two years when I ask for their support then I earn it again.”
Q: So you don’t have to do anything different this time because you have a primary opponent?
A: “When you are working hard and you're representing your district and you are out there and talking to people, ideally if you are doing the job that a representative should do you shouldn’t have to change up anything. I work hard all year, I try to make sure that I’m out there in the community. People know what I am doing -- I represented the people for a really long time.”
Q: This time will you have to do TV ads? You didn’t have to do that against Joe Kaufman (her Republican opponent in 2014)
“In different campaigns there’s different approaches. Certainly I won’t be talking about any campaign strategy to a member of the press but we are going to get our message out in a variety of ways as we always do.”
Q: Why do think (Canova) has drawn so much attention?
A: “I really don’t know. I am focused as I usually do on my own campaign, doing the best job I can to represent my constituents and that’s my first responsibility is to do my job in Congress, to help elect a Democratic president and to make sure that in running for re-election people know the work I have done on their behalf. I’m not remotely paying attention to what my opponent does.”
Q: Is it going to pull you off your duties, reduce your time you can spend DNC and presidential matters?
“I have been DNC chair five years and I’ve had an election every time. I’ve balanced the work between covering my own responsibilities in Congress, and running for re-election and doing my job at the DNC. This will be no different.”