WESTON, Fla., March 28 (UPI) — President Barack Obama has endorsed Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her re-election bid in the House of Representatives as she faces a noticeable challenge from candidate Tim Canova.
“Debbie has been a strong, progressive leader in Congress and a hardworking, committed chair of our national party since I proudly nominated her to the role in 2011,” Obama said in the endorsement announced by the Wasserman Schultz campaign. “Throughout my time as president I have seen Debbie bring an unwavering commitment to her family, her constituents, and our shared goals of protecting seniors, supporting working families and expanding economic opportunity for more people.”
Wasserman Schultz will face off against Canova in the August Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd Congressional district, which has been historically held by Democrats.
“President Obama has led this country from the depths of the Great Recession to an unprecedented period of private-sector job growth and low unemployment, and I’ve been proud to stand by him and help advance his agenda in Congress,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “His endorsement means so much to me, and inspires me to work even harder for the people of Florida’s 23rd Congressional district.
Controversy has followed Wasserman Schultz as of late. The progressive RootsAction collected thousands of signatures calling for her resignation from the DNC post after she suspended voter data access to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign. The DNC restored access only after the Sanders’ campaign filed a federal lawsuit.
Other groups called for her resignation after she criticized young women for becoming complacent about abortion rights, suggesting women born after the U.S. Supreme Court‘s 1973 Roe v. Wadelandmark abortion ruling have allowed the political fight to fade.
She was also criticized earlier in the Democratic presidential nomination campaign circuit when she initially said the DNC would not increase the amount of debates between candidates — a decision that was reversed.
Obama’s endorsement comes days after it was announced Canova would receive access to the Voter Activation Network, the Florida Democratic Party’s database of voter information.
Since 2011, the FDP has only allowed database access to incumbent Democrats. After a party spokesman earlier this month said primary challengers will not be allowed access, Canova and his allies publicly criticized the policy in recent weeks.
The pressure, including an open letter to Schultz from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, led the FDP to reverse its position as “to avoid any appearance of favoritism” — though the exception to the rule only applies to Canova.
“We’re glad to see that Canova will be given access to the voter file, but our broader concern about fairness and a level playing field for Democratic candidates still stands,” Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, told Florida Politics. “Inconsistent and non-transparent VAN access policies have been an ongoing issue in the Democratic Party.”