Tim Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University who once advised Bernie Sanders on Wall Street reform, is now running a grassroots campaign to take Debbie Wasserman Schultz's seat in Congress. He's using virtually the same message Sanders has relied on in his fight with Hillary Clinton: claiming that corporate money has corrupted Wasserman Schultz.
Though mainstream news outlets — and the handful of political analysts to whom New Times spoke in January — wrote Canova off after he announced his campaign, the candidate has since developed a fervent internet following. Now, riding a surge of support, Canova has won ringing endorsements from two major labor unions in the past week.
Before entering the congressional race, Canova worked at a law firm in New York. He then took a host of teaching positions around the country, including one at the University of Miami. All the while, he remained an outspoken critic of Wall Street banking firms and, while working in Los Angeles in 2011, joined the Occupy movement. That same year, Sanders asked Canova to sit on a Wall Street reform panel that also included former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.
Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, represents Florida's 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Miami Beach and Hollywood. She also chairs the Democratic National Committee and has long been accused of acting as a shill for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
On March 3, the Communication Workers of America, the nation's largest "communications and media" union, endorsed Canova. The union, which claims to represent 700,000 workers, has also thrown its full support behind Sanders.
Yesterday, the nation's largest nurses' union, National Nurses United, endorsed Canova at a 1 p.m. news conference as well.
"Our goal is to get people into elected office that will stand up for people and not corporations," union President Deborah Burger told New Times via phone. "So far, what we’ve seen is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has utilized the DNC to promote a certain candidate [Hillary Clinton]. That candidate has taken billions, billions in corporate donations."
Her union, she said, is backing both Canova and Sanders due to their support for single-payer health care and environmental protection laws. Nurses, she said, are often forced to deal with patients harmed by government policies.
"We see patients coming into the hospital that are having difficulty breathing or have asthma or permanent lung damage from air pollution," she said. "That comes from not having clean energy alternatives. We see patients harmed by pollutants poured into certain communities from fracking." Wasserman Schultz's recent efforts to protect the payday-loan industry, Burger added, bothered union members.
Virtually all of Canova's support has come from folks who are Feeling the Bern. Both of the aforementioned unions, for example, have thrown their full support behind Sanders. Nurses United has even driven "Bernie Buses" around the country during the primary season, sending nurses canvassing for Sanders.
Still, Canova's biggest hurdle will be raising enough money to combat Wasserman Schultz's corporate-funded war chest. According to campaign filings, Wasserman Schultz had already spent more than a million dollars on her campaign by the end of last year.
Canova, who has yet to release his first quarterly earnings report, said he's received more than 12,000 individual donations since he announced his candidacy. But he wouldn't say how much he's raised just yet.
"We're gonna have a big splash," Canova said. "We're going to roll it out at the end of the quarter, and it'll be good news."
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As for the analysts who say he can't topple the entrenched Wasserman Schultz, he says, "A lot of the academy are very establishment-oriented. They can't envision an insurgency when it's happening.
"Leading up to the financial crisis, people thought it was impossible to have a financial collapse. If all you do is look in the rearview mirror, you're going to miss an awful lot of what's coming down the pike."
Here's a clip of Canova speaking at a recent Bernie Sanders rally in Miami: