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Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenger Tim Canova says he raised a half-million

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Democratic challenger says he raised more than a half-million during his first fundraising quarter in a South Florida district.

The fundraising report for the quarter is due April 15th but Tim Canova said in an email to supporters today that he raised $557,000 from more than 15,000 donors.

"Not only are we the fastest growing grassroots campaign for Congress in the country, but we also raised more than any first quarter for any first-time candidate in the history of South Florida," he wrote in an email. "And unlike my opponent, we did not take a penny from any corporate political action committee (PAC) or Super PAC. Rather, with an average contribution of only $20, our campaign is powered by working families — teachers, nurses, small business owners, union members, students, and seniors."

Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, is running for elected office for the first time in a Broward/Miami-Dade congressional district. 

Wasserman Schultz raised about $1.1 million for her campaign committee through the end of 2015 -- and she has raised about $763,000 for her leadership PAC. Her campaign has not yet announced how much she raised the first quarter of 2016. As the Democratic National Committee chair and a longtime incumbent, she has the ability to out-fundraise a newcomer by large amounts.

In March, President Barack Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz -- a sign that she is taking her primary opponent seriously. Wasserman Schultz, who was first elected in 2004, has never faced a primary challenger and has easily beaten GOP opponents in the left-leaning district.

Canova has modeled his campaign somewhat after Bernie Sanders by emphasizing issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality. But he will have to draw support from more than Sanders' supporters because Clinton won the congressional district by more than two-to-one. 

Canova has attacked Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans. She co-sponsored a bill that would give preference to Florida's payday law -- a law that some consumer activists have said has continued the cycle of debt for the poor.