On Sunday, the battle for Florida’s 23rd congressional district/proxy war between the Democratic Party establishment and Bernie bros hit live TV. Six-term congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and primary challenger Tim Canova faced off in a televised debate on CBS4 (WFOR-TV). The most memorable, and perhaps most telling, moment involved a piece of political trivia.
“I just want to ask you how well you know this district,” moderator Jim DeFede said to Canova, who moved to South Florida in 2012 to teach law at Nova Southeastern University. “Do you know who the mayor of Southwest Ranches is?”
Southwest Ranches is a Broward town in the 23rd district. Canova has often criticized Wasserman Schultz for supporting the construction of a proposed 1,500-bed Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility there.
“I’m not going to play that game,” Canova responded. “No, I do not.”
Wasserman Schultz’s eyebrows leapt. She struggled to contain a smirk. As Canova tried to pivot the conversation to the proposed detention center, Wasserman Schultz cut him off.
“It’s Jeff Nelson, by the way,” she said.
“Very good. Thank you very much,” Canova snapped.
“He’s also the assistant principal of Cypress Bay High School,” Wasserman Schultz added.
Jeff Nelson was not watching CBS4. Friends called to tell him he had become a talking point.
“I don’t care whether Tim Canova knows me or doesn’t know me,” Nelson said. “Why would he? We haven’t had any dealings.”
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Nelson, who has endorsed Wasserman Schultz, says he has a good working relationship with the congresswoman as well as “tremendous respect and admiration for her.”
He wouldn’t comment on whether Canova’s dearth of relationships with local officials would make him less qualified to hold office. Instead, he stressed that he has “no ill will or bad feelings” toward Canova. (DeFede also declined comment on the importance of the issue.)
Meanwhile, Canova blasted both Nelson and Wasserman Schultz on Twitter for their support of the immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches.