This feels like a bit of political déjà vu.
Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee. As such, she's supposed to support Democratic candidates for office at all levels of government. But in December, she blocked Bernie Sanders' campaign from accessing the DNC's voter data files, which contain email addresses and telephone numbers for constituents. Wasserman Schultz was accused of playing favorites and intentionally tanking Sanders' campaign to give an advantage to Hillary Clinton. Though Sanders sued and got the data he'd sought, critics have since called for Wasserman Schultz's head.
Now, Tim Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University who is running against Wasserman Schultz for her seat in Congress, found out that he too is blocked from accessing DNC voter data, even though he's a Democrat. A state party executive told him last Friday that anyone running against an incumbent is not allowed to access that data.
"I was astounded, quite frankly," Canova said. "I would have thought that given the bad publicity the DNC and Wasserman Schultz got, this would have led to some change in policy."
A committee spokesperson, Max Steele, confirmed to New Times via email that the Florida Democratic Party does not offer data access "to candidates challenging incumbent members of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation. This policy has been applied uniformly across the board since 2010. We stand with our incumbent members of Congress and we’re proud of the job they do representing the people of Florida. The Voter File is proprietary software created and owned by the Democratic National Committee that is maintained and operated by the Florida Democratic Party here in state."
Canova, who is running to fight political corruption, was incensed. "This is exactly what's animating my campaign," he said.
Canova says he was told that if he were an incumbent, he'd appreciate the policy. "I said, 'I completely understand the need to protect incumbents from Republicans. But from other Democrats in a primary?' Why would the party take a side in that contest? Democracy should be about having debate and contested elections. The better candidate should win, so to speak."
Canova sat on one of Bernie Sanders' Wall Street reform advisory committees and has been an outspoken critic of Wall Street excess. In 2011, he helped teach classes at a makeshift "university" in a Los Angeles "Occupy Wall Street" encampment.
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Canova, who lives in Hollywood, Florida, announced his run for office in January. He has basically usurped Sanders' platform: Canova claims Wasserman Schultz has been corrupted by corporate donations. He is funding his campaign largely through small donations. If elected, he hopes to reform the nation's largest banks.
In March, Canova scored endorsements from two massive labor unions: The Communication Workers of America, which represents communications and media workers, and National Nurses United, the county's biggest nurses' union.
This is unfair and undemocratic. My opponent already has untold advantages against an insurgent progressive campaign like ours. We are refusing to take corporate money, while she has taken millions of dollars from Wall Street bankers, payday lenders, private prison companies, and other corporate special interests. How much more of an advantage does Wasserman Schultz need to silence the voices of grassroots voters in our district?
This is nothing less than an entrenched establishment throwing up roadblocks against our political revolution. We’ve seen my opponent do this against Bernie’s presidential campaign and other progressive challengers. As head of the DNC, Wasserman Schultz has pushed strategies that suppress voter turnout, all to protect incumbents and establishment politicians. She has routinely defended the party’s use of Superdelegates to block the will of Democratic voters in state after state.
All of this has made our party weaker and more vulnerable against Republicans in general elections, which is so painfully obvious with the Democratic Party’s losses in the midterm elections in the past six years?—?13 Senate seats and 69 House seats, the biggest loss of congressional Democrats in modern political history.