Democrats splintering over DNC chief?

The Takeaway
DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, speaks before the start of the Democratic UA presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Michigan, March 6.

Jim Young/Reuters

For months, the Republican Party seemed to be splintering apart as Donald Trump inched closer to the GOP nomination. But now it’s the Democratic Party that is struggling to unify.

Last week, mayhem broke out at the Nevada Democratic Convention when Sanders supporters claimed that party insiders were favoring Hillary Clinton and intentionally removing his delegates with procedural tricks. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, accused Sanders of condoning violence among his supporters, which Sanders later denied.

This isn’t the first time the Sanders camp has accused the DNC of favoring Clinton. But now, things are getting personal.

Sanders is so fed up with Wassermann Schultz that he is actively pushing for her defeat. He's come out in support of Tim Canova, who is trying to unseat Wassermann Schultz in Florida's 23rd congressional district.

“Clearly I favor her opponent," Sanders told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "His views are much closer to mine than Wasserman Schultz’s. And let me also say this, with all due respect to the current chairperson: If [I’m] elected president, she would not be reappointed to be chair of the DNC.”

Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, says he’s ready to fight against Wasserman Schultz.

“There’s a big anti-incumbent mood in this country, and for good reason: The incumbents have not been solving problems that real people face day in, day out for years now,” he says.

Canova says his opponent isn’t serving the people of the 23rd congressional district, and hasn’t for some time.

“There’s a perception that Wasserman Schultz is out of touch — she’s a political insider,” he says. “She hasn’t been representing her constituents. I mean, being the head of the DNC is a fulltime job, and she’s arguably doing two fulltime jobs, getting two big paychecks, and not doing either job all that effectively.”

Though Wasserman Schultz is a power within the Democratic Party, Canova believes he can unseat her.

“She has big guns, but we’ve got such grassroots support,” he says. “We’re drawing support far and wide from around the country, but also from all over the district and Florida. We actually received more donations in the state of Florida than she did in the first quarter, and she’s been at it for 12 years — I’ve been at it for less than 90 days.”

Though Sanders hasn’t campaigned for Canova in the district, he has asked his supporters to donate to Canova’s campaign.

“On issues like taking on Wall Street, making tuition free at public colleges, and reforming our broken campaign finance system, [Tim Canova] is someone you can be proud to support,” the Sanders camp said in an email blast to supporters on Sunday.

As the August 30 primary approaches, Canova says his team is putting on the pressure, and has racked up a number of endorsements from progressive Democrats, labor unions, veterans groups, and others.

“Whether Bernie Sanders comes to the district or not, Wasserman Schultz losing here will be a big deal,” Canova says.

Wasserman Schultz declined to be interviewed for this story, but did send the following statement:

"I'm focused on representing my district and simultaneously electing a Democratic president as the chair of the Democratic National Committee, because that is critical to making sure that we can advance the agenda that people in my district care about. Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the Presidential Democratic primary."

A version of this story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.