Bernie Sanders Is Supporting Primary Challenge Against DNC’s Wasserman Schultz

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Congresswoman and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the
Wasserman Schultz continues to be enemy #1 for Sanders and his campaign.Photo: Pacific Press/© 2015 Pacific Press

In one of the least surprising endorsements yet this year, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says that he is supporting the primary challenger running against Florida congresswoman and current DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview which aired on Sunday’s State of the Union, Sanders confirmed he would be supporting former Capitol Hill staffer (and onetime Sanders advisor) Tim Canova in his underdog attempt to unseat Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. Sanders also indicated that he would terminate Wasserman Schultz’s DNC chairmanship if he was elected president. The comments are but the latest attack in what has become a persistently rancorous feud between the insurgent Sanders campaign and Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic Party establishment they believe she represents.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Sanders has been extremely critical of Wasserman Schultz’s leadership of the DNC and stewardship of Democratic primaries, and he and his campaign have long accused the congresswoman of favoring Hillary Clinton and using her influential role to give Clinton an advantage in areas like debate scheduling and the appointment of convention committee leaders. As the New York Times notes, the Sanders campaign and its supporters have also directed their ire at the DNC regarding the nomination process overall, which they see as having been stacked against Sanders from the start. Other issues of contention have been the party’s use of closed primary races in some states, a co-fundraising arrangement with the Clinton campaign, and the general role of super delegates, though Wasserman Schultz and others have noted that DNC rules for this cycle had been in place for years, and are for the most part the same rules that were in place when Barack Obama overtook then front-runner Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries.

After Wasserman Schultz rebuked the Sanders campaign for not condemning its supporters’ behavior at the contentious party convention in Nevada last weekend, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver accused the DNC chair of “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning.” For her part, Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly denied that she has worked to influence the race towards any candidate, and on Saturday insisted she would still remain neutral for the remainder of the Democratic primaries, regardless of Sanders’s support of Canova.

Policy-wise, Canova is a very Sanders-like candidate, and the current college professor has already been modeling his campaign on the Vermont senator’s. How much help Sanders’s support will be is not clear, however. Sanders emailed out what will surely be a successful fundraising appeal on Canova’s behalf on Sunday morning, but he also got crushed in Wasserman Schultz’s district during the Florida primary in March, losing to Clinton by 38 percentage points.