Tim Canova, the upstart liberal who’s challenging Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her congressional seat, is about to become a million-dollar candidate.Fueled by small-dollar donors who give to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Canova said that, by the weekend, he’ll be on pace to have raised $1 million since he officially entered the race Jan. 7.
The source of the money is a point of pride for Canova, who was criticized last month by Wasserman Schultz for getting out-of-state donations.
“We have more donations in the State of Florida than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This is a reflection that our progressive message is spreading here in South Florida,” Canova, who first announced his cash haul on WPLG Local 10 in Miami, told POLITICO Florida via email late Tuesday.
Wasserman Schultz’s campaign couldn’t be reached.
The surprising big-dollar Democratic primary between the party leader and the liberal political newcomer has transfixed political observers in Florida and Washington, and is widely seen as a proxy fight between Sanders and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.For months, Wasserman Schultz has fought a rearguard action against Sanders’ backers who claim she’s using her post as DNC chair to help Clinton, a charge the congresswoman denies.
In the congressional race, the association with Clinton isn’t likely a bad thing for Wasserman Schultz. Clinton beat Sanders by about 69-30 percent in South Florida’s 23d Congressional District.
Wasserman Schultz is seen as a formidable candidate by Democratic insiders, but some are starting to believe in Canova.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz is going to have a run for her money — a million bucks worth and counting,” said a longtime Florida Democratic Party activist who lives in the district.
The mammoth haul for the political newcomer isn’t a big shock for those who watched Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, pull in an eye-popping $537,000 in the first quarter of fundraising that ended March 31. Wasserman Schultz reported raising $575,000 during that period. Canova’s campaign on Friday said via email that he received another $300,000 in April alone, and that’s after President Barack Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz.In its Friday email about its April fundraising, the Canova campaign said it received 17,756 individual contributions in the month, that the overall average contribution was just $18.76 and that of the 23,404 total donors as of the end of April, only nine “have maxed out.”
The campaign says it soon will have 50,000 contributions from 25,000 individual donors.
Canova’s fundraising prowess has alarmed backers of Wasserman Schultz, who has been in only one Democratic primary, in 1992, when she successfully ran for state representative. Since then, Wasserman Schultz won election as state senator and then a member of Congress without Democratic opposition in safe Democratic seats. When she faced Republicans, she dispatched them with relative ease.
Wasserman Schultz is the first Jewish woman from Florida to serve in Congress, a point of pride in her heavily Jewish Democratic district. And though she’s popular with many Democrats and is well-known for taking care of her district, South Florida Democrats say she has spent more time at home because of the threat from Canova, who has been aided by an outside liberal group that has savaged Wasserman Schultz for supporting a bill tied to the payday lending industry.
With the local and national media’s eyes now on him, Canova’s calling out Wasserman Schultz for not debating him.“She’s been dodging the question and has refused to commit to any debates,” Canova said. “Surely she should know that in a democracy, debates are the lifeblood of elections.”
Raising $1 million in five months helps a campaign as well.