Running against the head of the Democratic National Convention is a pretty lonely exercise: You don’t get into the race expecting a lot of high-profile Democrats will flock to you with endorsements. But then again, most DNC heads aren’t as controversial as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who’s so disliked that there’s been talk in some corners of Congress of ousting her before the Democratic National Convention in July.
Still, it felt like shots-fired this weekend when Bernie Sanders declared he preferred the relatively unknown Florida law professor Tim Canova to Wasserman Schultz in the battle to represent Florida’s 23rd district. Sanders also put out an appeal to his massive fundraising network for donations to benefit Canova’s campaign. It was an easy ask for many Sanders supporters who feel Wasserman Schultz rigged the election for Hillary Clinton. (Wasserman Schultz, who was campaign co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, says at every opportunity that she and the DNC are “neutral” in the Democratic race; other DNC members, like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, have publicly accused her of bias toward Clinton.)
The Sanders endorsement was a boon for Canova, who raised almost a quarter of a million dollars in less than 24 hours. But who is Canova, other than the man gunning for Democratic enemy number one? According to his campaign bio, he’s picked avocados on a kibbutz in Israel and taught a workshop on reforming the Federal Reserve at Occupy L.A., and enjoys cooking, running on the beach and practicing Pilates. Rolling Stone caught up with the law professor to learn more.
Tell me about the moment you decided to run for office.
I never thought I was going to run for political office, even though I’ve been involved in politics for many years. I’d been a legislative aide for the late U.S. Sen.Paul Tsongas, Democrat from Massachusetts, and over the years I’ve advised and volunteered for a number of political campaigns and spearheaded some grassroots campaigns. But I didn’t think I’d be a candidate.
[After repeatedly lobbying against the TPP and feeling blown off by Wasserman Schultz’s staff], there was frustration, and you could say the frustration peaked when Wasserman Schultz was the only Democratic lawmaker in Florida who voted to fast-track the TPP. In the course of this I learned that she had taken over $300,000 in campaign contributions from big corporate interests that were lobbying for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She had only taken about $20,000 from groups opposed to the TPP, and of course groups opposed to the TPP don’t have much money — environmentalists and labor folks. [Although Canova has repeated this allegation to several media outlets, Rolling Stone could not independently verify the claim, and his campaign did not respond to multiple requests for the precise source of the information.] I started to look more closely at her record and saw this wasn’t an aberration, that she has been taking millions of dollars from the largest Wall Street banks and corporations and voting their interests — it seemed so contrary to her public image as a progressive. So throughout the fall I was thinking about it, and I didn’t really come to a decision until December, and jumped in the race in early January.