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Bernie Sanders backs Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opponent

Bernie Sanders told CNN that he will back U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Democratic primary opponent in South Florida.

Sanders said in an interview for CNN's State of the Union that he will back Tim Canova, a first-time candidate who has raised more than $1 million since he jumped into the race in January. That still puts him behind Wasserman Schultz who has at least $1.8 million, but Canova's fundraising prowess has earned him national attention.

"Well, clearly, I favor her opponent," Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper. "His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz's."

Sanders' announcement wasn't surprising given his ongoing feud with Wasserman Schultz and his relationship with Canova, who is now a Nova Southeastern University law professor who specializes in public finance. In 2011, Sanders chose Canova to serve on an advisory committee on federal reserve reform. And Canova has echoed many of Sanders' campaign themes -- particularly his desire for campaign finance reform. 

Sanders has argued for months that Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee which she chairs have favored Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary including with an initially limited debate schedule. Wasserman Schultz co-chaired Clinton's first presidential bid in 2007 but has denied any favoritism during the 2016 primary.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz responded: "I am so proud to serve the people of Florida's 23rd district and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress.  Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the Presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall."

Canova said in a statement: "I'm so proud to know that Bernie Sanders favors our campaign for progress for all. Like Senator Sanders, I'm running a campaign that's truly backed by the people, not big corporations-- one that stands up to Wall Street interests instead of cozying up to them. Together, I feel confident that our campaign of nurses, teachers, students, seniors and working class Floridians can work together to demand accountability from our leaders, and offer a more positive path forward to the people of Florida's 23rd district."

Canova, who lives in Hollywood, and Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston, are competing in the Aug. 30 primary in the liberal Broward/Miami-Dade district.

Clinton beat Sanders in the district -- and Florida -- in a landslide in the March 15 primary. The challenge for Canova is to see if he can inspire Sanders' supporters -- and other Democrats in the district -- to topple a longtime incumbent with broad name recognition. Wasserman Schultz is well-known in Broward County where she was first elected to the state Legislature in 1992.

Clinton speaks in Fort Lauderdale Saturday night at a gala for the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

This is the first time that Wasserman Schultz has faced a primary opponent in a reelection since first winning the seat in 2004. Since then she has easily beaten longshot Republican candidates. President Barack Obama named Wasserman Schultz DNC chair in 2011.