Bernie Sanders Endorses The Man Trying To Unseat The Democratic Party Chair As the odds grow longer for Bernie Sanders, liberals unhappy with the party could find a cause in Tim Canova, a college professor taking on Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Bernie Sanders Endorses The Man Trying To Unseat The Democratic Party Chair

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Establishment Democrats down the ballot have also been put on the defensive this election season. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, faces a tough challenger in the mold of Bernie Sanders. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, Tim Canova is drawing on national support and is providing Wasserman Schultz with the first primary challenge of her career.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: At a Union hall in Opa-Locka, a Miami suburb recently, Tim Canova was doing what he does most nights - introducing himself to Democratic voters.


TIM CANOVA: I'm running in the 23rd Congressional District against the incumbent Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

ALLEN: This is a heavily Democratic district, one that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has won easily six times before. She's the favorite to win again this time. As DNC chairperson, she has easy access to the national media and to party donors. But Wasserman Schultz's role as a spokesperson for the Democratic establishment has made her a target. At the Pipefitter's Union hall in Opa-Locka, Canova hits his major theme, that Wasserman Schultz receives too much money from banks and big business.


CANOVA: So she has a safe district. And what she do with the safety? Does she look after her constituents? She looks to line her pocket. She's moved up in the ranks in the hierarchy in the Democratic Party, and she's done it by taking millions of dollars.

ALLEN: If this sounds a little like Bernie Sanders' attacks on Hillary Clinton, that's not a coincidence. Canova has advised Sanders on financial regulation and endorsed him early in his presidential bid. Canova says he decided to run for Congress after working last year to fight the Trans Pacific Partnership. Wasserman Schultz voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to complete the trade deal. While he agrees with her on many social issues, Canova says Wasserman Schultz is not looking out for the economic interests of people in her district, especially young people.

CANOVA: I see this generation as really suffering from a very weak job market. The trade agreements outsource a lot of jobs, but there's a lot to be done even aside from trade that has not been on her radar.

ALLEN: While he works to get his name out to Democrats in his South Florida district, Canova has picked up a lot of support nationally. Among progressives in the Democratic Party, there's a lot of anger for Wasserman Schultz and the party at large for being too cozy with banks and Wall Street. In the first quarter, as a largely unknown Democratic challenger, Canova pulled in more than a half-million dollars in contributions, most of it from outside Florida.

Canova believes Wasserman Schultz is out of step with constituents on economic and other important issues, like her support for President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. The head of the Democratic Club in Sunny Isles, Lew Thaler, says when Canova spoke to his group recently, he told them he would've opposed it.

LEW THALER: Sunny Isles Beach is a very big Jewish community. There are a substantial amount of Jewish people here. And, you know, he satisfied them.

ALLEN: There are others besides Canova taking aim at Wasserman Schultz. An outside group, Allied Progress, has paid for billboards attacking her for supporting a bill that would prevent federal regulators from setting terms for payday loans. Those are high-interest, short-term loans consumer groups criticize as predatory. In an interview on Miami CBS4 recently, Wasserman Schultz defended her support for the bill.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital that are the working poor.

ALLEN: Financial support from progressive Democrats from around the country has been vital for Canova. And Sean Foreman, an associate political science professor at Barry University in Miami, says once Sanders is out of the race, the flood of money is only likely to grow.

SEAN FOREMAN: Those who want to see Bernie Sanders win the nomination - and when they realize that the path for him is virtually over, they may look for smaller victories in Senate or House races.

ALLEN: Florida's congressional primary comes in late August, a month after Democrats will have settled on a presidential candidate and begin looking to races in Congress. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.