Forced out of her position with the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is faced, for the first time, with a serious political challenge. Nothing less than her seat in Washington is at stake.
Wasserman Schultz credits her experience in student politics at the University of Florida as being responsible for developing her "love for politics and the political process." However, some observers are claiming she should have developed a love for political fairness and transparency, too.
Although, Wasserman Schultz has been elected in her South Florida area six times, a seventh term is no guarantee. Tim Canova, backed by Bernie Sanders, is challenging Wasserman Schulz. And her resignation as the Democratic National Committee chairwoman isn't helping.
Canova, who has raised almost $3 million, is mounting a strong offensive. He accuses Wasserman Schultz of being a Wall Street stooge who prefers corporate dollars over progressive goals.
"Wasserman Schultz is a typical politician who lives in her own bubble. She is not out and about with the people like I have been," said Canova who teaches corporate law at Nova Southeastern University.
Wasserman Schultz, who has been keeping a low profile following her compelled withdrawal, worked on the counter-attack. Canova is speaking "half-truths, falsehoods and untruths" to criticize her record she told reporters. Later, she received boisterous applause at a gathering to discuss bridging the divide between police and the black community.
"I have a sincere dedication to our district," she told conference attendees at a predominantly African-American mega-church.
"My competitor can state anything he desires. The people who I serve, know better."
In Wasserman Schultz's prior campaigns for office, she never faced an opponent in the primaries. In elections, she has received over 60-percent of the ballots in a region that extends from the Atlantic to the Everglades. The area is filled with upper-middle class neighborhoods consisting of high-rises, beachfront resorts and condos, golf courses, and extravagant malls. Scattered in the midst are lower, middle-income neighborhoods.
Wasserman Schultz, who had been seen as a powerhouse; former Representative Allen West, one of her toughest detractors, ran in a nearby district despite residing in hers to evade a probable loss.
The emails that forced Wasserman Schultz out of her DNC position are driving Canova's supporters. The challenger's supporters say the leaks confirm what they have long been claiming, that Wasserman Schultz tossed out integrity and impartiality in an effort to reduce Sanders' odds of beating Clinton.
"My family has gone to fight in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and both World Wars," said makeup specialist Ellen Kinnally, a Sanders advocate. "No one robs me of my freedom for a democratic vote."
Wasserman Schultz still disputes the idea of bestowing bias in the Clinton -- Sanders contest, claiming she stuck with party laws.
The emails reveal that DNC workers followed the race. Staffers watched media coverage and attempted to get the specifics of a speech Canova supplied over the internet to an Alaska group while Wasserman Shultz addressed that state's Democratic organization. Then, they distributed a campaign press release about Canova receiving Sanders' support — Wasserman Schultz demanded that Canova's name be removed from the headline.
For his part, Canova began contemplating running in 2015 when he promoted resistance to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. Wasserman Schultz never consented to an agreement, and she was a sole Democrat in the Florida congressional delegation voting to fast-track TPP's approval.
"She is the beneficiary of millions of dollars from Wall Street, and I began studying her voting experience. It traced those corporate interests," Canova said.
The victor of the Wasserman Schultz/Canova contest will probably face Republican Joe Kaufman in November. Wasserman Schultz defeated Kaufman in 2014 by a 63 to 37% margin.