Cash for opponent pours in as Debbie Wasserman Schultz struggles

The Democratic National Convention is fertile fundraising ground this week for one Florida congressional candidate, but not in the traditional sense of high-priced donor dinners or lobbyist happy hours.

In fact, Tim Canova isn’t even in Philadelphia.

Instead, the political novice who wants to unseat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is reaping big financial rewards from days of nonstop publicity about her resignation from the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee after a hack of embarrassing party emails.

Call it viral fundraising.

It’s a down-ballot twist on how Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed Canova, was able to raise more than $235 million during his primary race against the far more politically connected — and initially better-funded — Hillary Clinton.

“In some ways, it feels like we’ve won the lottery,” Canova said. “There’s been a natural donor base for someone willing to take on a person with a national profile who is seen as a failed leader.”

Sanders, who has already sent fundraising pleas on Canova’s behalf, said he also may campaign for him. At a round-table interview Tuesday with Bloomberg Politics, he said he’d be doing so not because of “some kind of personal vendetta against Debbie,” but because Canova is a “good candidate.”

Privately, some Democratic officials think Wasserman Schultz is at risk of losing her Aug. 30 primary to Canova.

However, officials with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made clear Monday they have no plans to spend money to save her. Top committee leaders told reporters that they do not spend money on safe Democratic seats, which hers is, because they need to save resources for states they are trying to save or flip.

Soon after Wasserman Schultz was booed Monday during a Florida delegation breakfast in Philadelphia, Canova wrote to his 20,000 Twitter followers, “It’s time to end her political career for good,” and shared a link to his campaign fundraising webpage.

Canova has repeatedly ripped Wasserman Schultz on social media because it is paying off: He said he’s raised about $100,000 in the 72 hours since the scandal erupted, all without leaving south Florida or picking up a phone to dial for dollars. In Philadelphia, Wasserman Schultz refused to speak to reporters as she left the breakfast on Monday and watched the night’s speakers from a private suite filled with donors inside the convention hall.

Wasserman Schultz’s 12 years as a congresswoman and five years as leader of the Democratic Party give her a donor list on the order of Clinton’s. But so far Canova, a law professor in his first-ever political campaign, has echoed Sanders’ success online.

Florida delegate John Archer, wearing a Canova T-Shirt covered in Sanders buttons, said he’s proud of the way the challenger is funding his campaign. “He’s doing it the Bernie Sanders way,” he said.

Canova has raised $2.3 million through the end of June, more than three-quarters from donors giving $200 or less. By comparison, the $3 million Wasserman Schultz raised between January and June 30 came mostly from political committees and larger donors.

Canova said he has not held fundraising dinners and never called a donor to ask for money. “What the grassroots has done for me — I’m so thankful,” he said. “If, when, I’m elected, I won’t owe a single thing to special interests.”

Sanders took the same approach, turning again and again to small donors online to propel him deep into the primaries. In one memorable moment after he won the New Hampshire primary in February, Sanders declared on national television that he was holding a fundraiser right then and there and asked for people to chip in $27, which he claimed as his campaign’s average donation. Millions of dollars flowed in.

Canova and Sanders have turned to the same Democratic digital firm, Revolution Messaging, to help with fundraising. Scott Goodstein, its chief executive officer, said candidates are becoming more aware of how much money there is to be raised when a moment catches fire online.

Republicans, too, have tapped into viral fundraising with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leading the pack.

As he spoke to accept his party’s nomination last Thursday, Trump became the first political candidate to purchase a “promoted trend” on Twitter. For 24 hours, he drove those following politics on the social media site to donate to his campaign. His campaign chairman Paul Manafort said — on Twitter, as it happens — that Trump raised about $4 million that day.

“They’re very open to trying new things,” Jenna Golden, Twitter’s director of political advertising, said of Trump’s campaign. “They’re not throwing things at the wall. Everything they’re doing is making money.”

Trump’s campaign raised more than $26 million last month, almost half of which came from donors giving $200 or less. That’s far higher than the usual small-donor rate for presidential candidates.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Florida regulators OK plan to increase toxins in water

Despite the objection of environmental groups, state environmental regulators voted Tuesday to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida’s rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that would increase the number of regulated chemicals from 54 to 92 allowed in rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water, news media outlets reported. The final vote came after hours of discussion, protests and emotional testimony.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that one man called members of the Commission – who are appointed by Gov. Rick Scott – “baby killers” after the vote.

The Miami Herald reports that under the proposal, acceptable levels of toxins will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. State officials back the plan because it places new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated.

“We have not updated these parameters since 1992. It is more good than harm,” said Cari Roth, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents developers on the Commission and serves as its chair.

The standards still must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the Scott administration came under withering criticism for pushing the proposal at this time. That’s because there are two vacancies on the commission, including one for a commissioner who is supposed to represent the environmental community.

“This is beyond outrageous,” Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, was quoted by the Democrat as saying. “This is a wholesale denial in Florida of the value of our lives. This is our governor, who is the person who’s driving this, saying Floridians’ lives don’t matter. What matters are our industries, our corporations making more money. And they can do that by putting more pollution in our waters.”

One of the commissioners who voted against the new standards questioned if the changes were being done to assist companies that want to pursue a type of oil and gas drilling known as fracking.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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America’s future space policy still a mystery from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

With wars, terrorism, gun violence, economic problems, national debt, immigration issues and other national crises, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton might be excused for focusing on them, yet many Floridians and particular Central Floridians are eagerly waiting to hear what they aren’t yet talking about, space.

The futures of NASA, commercial space initiatives, and defense programs are critical to the economy and future of Florida’s Space Coast and Central Florida, and by extension to the entire state, and to a rapidly evolving space industry that includes players ranging from giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin to tiny space entrepreneurs trying to make a go on the Space Coast, in an uncertain political economy.

By this time in the 2012 presidential race Republican vice presidential designee Paul Ryan already had come to Orlando to deliver a major speech on the future of space, and the Mitt Romney campaign had issued a detailed white paper about the goals, objectives, and priorities of what his administration would pursue beyond Earth. President Barack Obama‘s space policies were official national policies, so they too were well-known.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Connie Mack also had talked extensively about space policy, and the issues were being robustly debated in key congressional races.

This year? Neither Trump nor Clinton has addressed space, except, reportedly, in occasional, short, simple answers to left-field questions at press conferences, while most Senate and congressional candidates haven’t said much more.

The Republican National Committee did add a space plank to its platform last week – the Democrats so far have not. The Republican space plank declares, “we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.” Yet it offers no specifics.

Lost in those specifics is the potential for sweeping federal policy changes, as there are significant political differences about where America’s space priorities ought to be, and the implications can be profound.

“I don’t think we know what the platforms are,” said Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition For Deep Space Exploration, which put out a white paper last month on space policy, suggesting what the federal candidates’ platforms should be, but haven’t heard back yet. “I wish we did have more information.”

Another white paper has been issued by an ad-hoc coalition, loosely competing with some of the deep space coalition’s interests. That group includes such players as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the Aerospace Industries Association, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Astronautical Society, and Space Florida.

Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, Florida’s space industry development arm, said he expects the candidates’ space platform details to emerge as the candidates begin considering how to win Florida.

“The success we’ve had in the past in promoting space policy during a presidential campaign really has only gained traction late in the campaign, late August … September … when the campaigns are beginning to hone their messages to geographic areas,” Ketcham said. “The closer we get to election day, the more those campaigns refine their messages to specific regions. No region has been more important than the I-4 corridor. So we’re continuing to work that communication between the four purple states, Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado [which all have huge NASA, DoD and private space communities,] because as those messages refine we should be able to gain more position in discussing space policy.”

There is ample room for debate, even between the two big space industry coalitions’ white papers.

The Obama administration has several major space policies with which not everyone agrees. For human space exploration, NASA has set its sights on Mars and is investing much of its research,  energy and tens of billions of dollars to get there in about 20 years. For that to happen, NASA is turning over almost all lower-Earth-orbit activity to the private sector, including not-to-distant-future ferrying of American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

To do that, NASA is investing billions of dollars in private space companies, to make them viable until they can profitably take over all that activity.

Meanwhile, NASA’s non-human exploration programs, including sending orbiters and rovers all over the solar system, using satellites to study the Earth and cosmos, and developing particular sciences and technologies aboard the space station, all are in me-first tugs-of-war for scheduling and funding.

Not everyone in politics or the space industry thinks NASA should be abdicating lower-Earth dominance to private businesses. Not everyone thinks Mars is all that good of an idea. And what about the moon? What’s this plan NASA has for sending astronauts to an asteroid?

Meanwhile, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are being turned into a multi-user, public-private-military spaceport, where government space projects become a small part of the action. Yet competing spaceports in Texas, California, Virginia and potentially a dozen other states are positioning themselves to compete.

And internationally? Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Indians all are trying challenge America’s space leadership in various segments of the future market, with heavy subsidies or state ownership of the companies competing.

It’s not just Trump or Clinton, though clearly one of them will be setting the stage.

“We have three branches of government. They’re not expected to see things eye-to-eye. But with regard to space policy, cohesion between the White House and Congress is very helpful,” said Dittmar, whose group includes big players such as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. “There is some disconnect. The White House and NASA have made requests for the budget that are not consistent with where Congress was coming down.”

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Violence at club a sign of bad times in Ft. Myers?

A couple of doors down from Club Blu, where a young man and a 14-year-old boy were killed while attending a teen party, shop owner Idis Edouard hoisted a rod above his head to gently move a girl’s blue dress aside.

“The bullet was there,” he said, pointing to a spot on the ceiling. “And there. It shattered that window.”

The pock-marks were from another mass shooting, not connected to the club, a couple of years ago. Both shootings remind Edouard, a Haitian immigrant, that the city he has called home for several decades may be increasingly unsafe. In the past year, there have been at least six shootings in the area, a place known more for its stunning Gulf beaches than for gun violence.

On Sunday, Club Blu hosted a swimsuit-themed party in hopes of providing a safe place for kids in an alcohol-free venue with security. As the club was closing around 12:30 a.m. Monday and parents were arriving to pick up their children, gunfire erupted. Two were slain and 17 others, ranging in age from 12 to 27, were wounded.

Police have not released a motive, saying only that it wasn’t terrorism. Three persons of interest were booked on unrelated charges.

Eager to show concern about the violence, officials opened a fund to assist the families. The TOGETHER Fort Myers Fund had raised over $10,000 by Tuesday afternoon, said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The foundation has always been ready to respond to natural disasters, but creating a fund for shooting victims is new, Owen said.

“There’s this general feeling in the community that everybody’s heart-broken, feeling like, ‘What can we do?'” Owen said.

In Fort Myers, a string of shootings started in September, with seven people suffering gunshot wounds during four separate shootings over a seven-hour period. A shooting during a zombie festival in October killed one person and wounded five others. In March, four people survived a shooting at a park.

Overall, crime in Florida has been on the decline, as Gov. Rick Scott noted during a news conference Monday.

“The positive is we are at a 45-year low in our crime rate. The negatives — I can’t imagine this happening to any person in our state,” he said.

But while overall crime might be down, violent crime in Lee County for 2015 spiked more than 6 percent compared with the year before.

There are about 700,000 people in the county and about 74,000 in Fort Myers, which is home to a palm tree-lined downtown and spring training for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. In Fort Myers, about 55 percent of the population is white and 32 percent is black. Most of those at the club were African-American.

Club Blu is located in central Fort Myers, within city limits. It’s not in the highest-crime neighborhoods, but business owners and residents say the area has changed. Once a sleepy retiree community, Lee County has gone through rapid boom-and-bust cycles in recent decades.

“This used to be the main corridor of business,” said Richard Lawrence, an employee of a plumbing parts store that’s located next door to Club Blu.

Car dealerships used to dot the area, but when the county grew, so did the businesses. The dealerships and other stores left the area a decade or two ago for more advantageous locations further south. Stores in strip malls, such as the one home to Club Blu and the plumbing store, were left half empty. Former dealerships turned into churches.

Lee County was among the hardest hit in the nation for foreclosures during the recession, and with the foreclosures came unemployment. Over the years, drugs and gangs have crept in — although locals aren’t exactly sure if one had to do with the other.

“A lot of this stuff you read about Fort Myers, it’s drug- and gang-related,” the 63-year-old Lawrence said. “I’m an old guy, and I gotta tell you, in my day, you might have people fight. But you didn’t shoot people. Now, they just don’t value life.”

Lawrence questioned why a teen night would be held at a nightclub, or why parents would allow such young children to be out that late.

Unemployment, a lack of education and easy access to guns are all part of the problem, said pastor William Glover of Fort Myers.

“We have to move away from the idea that this is a single issue problem,” he said. “Like most of the social issues we’re dealing with, there’s no single solution.”

On Tuesday, the national television live trucks had vacated the strip mall’s parking lot, leaving only the local stations. A makeshift memorial with flowers and stuffed animals had sprung up on a planter outside the entrance, and a garbage can overflowed with journalists’ empty plastic water bottles and Starbucks bags.

Authorities called in police cadets to comb the parking lot for clues, and under a hot Florida sun, they fanned out past the two signs at the entrance to the strip mall. One was a “space for lease” sign, while the other read: “We come to you: concealed weapon permit.”

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First medical pot dispensary opens its doors

For medical marijuana in Florida, the future is finally now.

Trulieve, the approved provider in northwest Florida, on Tuesday officially opened the first medical cannabis store in the state, in a strip mall in northeast Tallahassee.

“This is an historic day for the state of Florida,” CEO Kim Rivers told a roomful of reporters and medical cannabis advocates. The company was recently granted dispensing authorization by Florida’s Department of Health.

Trulieve is now the first medical marijuana provider to offer statewide delivery and make an in-store sale in Florida.

It will offer both the low-THC, or non-euphoric, strain previously OK’d by the state and the higher-THC strain allowed for terminally ill patients, Rivers said. Its marijuana is grown indoors to avoid using pesticides and other chemicals.

The store’s opening caps off an often frustrating journey for patients and their caregivers who had clamored for medical cannabis in the Sunshine State.

In 2014, lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure legalizing low-THC marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

That same version is high in cannabidiol, or CBD, the active ingredient that helps control spasms and seizures. It is processed into an oil to be taken by mouth.

A three-member panel of state officials was tasked with selecting five approved pot providers for each part of the state. But that process got bogged down as officials struggled through the rulemaking process and fielded legal challenges from providers who weren’t selected.

Tuesday’s grand opening also was attended by the co-founders of the CannaMoms, a group of Florida mothers who have been advocating for medical cannabis for their kids.

“The will of the people does change the world,” said Moriah Barnhart of Tampa, the organization’s CEO. Her daughter was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer at two years of age.

“We’re being able to relinquish the title of criminal we were forced to embrace in order to save our children’s lives,” she added. “We now know our neighbors are standing beside us.”

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but selling marijuana is still a federal crime.

The Obama administration, however, has given guidance to federal prosecutors to not charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

Also, a proposed state constitutional amendment is planned for the 2016 election, backed by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, that would create a right to medical marijuana. A 2014 attempt failed at the ballot boxes.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission

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Fundraising for solar-energy amendment slows in July

Contributions to Consumers for Smart Solar fizzled out in July.

State records show the fundraising committee — which is backing the solar-energy ballot initiative — received no contributions between July 2 and July 15. The two-week period marks the two most recent fundraising periods. The group has raised more than $16 million since July 2015.

The group spent $615 between July 9 and July 15. All told, the committee has spent more than $13.8 million.

Consumers for Smart Solar ended the most recent fundraising period with nearly $2.2 million cash on hand.

The amendment, which is supported by the state’s major electric companies, is on the November ballot. It needs 60 percent support to become law.

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TV station sets Alan Grayson vs. Patrick Murphy debate

Get ready for a debate.

Channel 9 Eyewitness News announced Monday it will host a debate between Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson on Aug. 12. The two men are the leading Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, and the debate comes about two weeks before the Aug. 30 primary.

The debate will be moderated by Channel 9 anchor Greg Warmoth. According to the station, the debate will touch on national security, economic issues at the state and national level, and the environment.

In a statement on the station’s website Paul Curran, vice president and general manager of WFTV Channel 9 and WRDQ TV-27, called the debate an “important opportunity for our viewers to hear directly from the leading Democratic candidates on where they stand” on key issues.

The debate will be a special edition of Central Florida Spotlight, and will take place inside the WFTV studios. It airs at 7 p.m. on Aug. 12. Viewers can watch on WFTV Channel 9, or watch online on wftv.com.

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First medical pot dispensary to open in Tallahassee

The first medical marijuana dispensary in Florida is slated to open.

Trulieve, the approved organization in northwest Florida, is set to open a dispensary in Tallahassee on Tuesday, one week after being given dispensing authorization by Florida’s health department.

The state’s Office of Compassionate Use, which was formed to oversee state regulation of medical marijuana, projects that there will be dispensing locations in 19 cities by the time all six organizations are up and running.

The legislature gave limited approval to medical marijuana in 2014, with many expecting it to be available early in 2015. The process was beset by administrative delays.

Patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms can order medical marijuana by contacting their physician, as long as both are in a state registry.

Trulieve, which will offer in-store sales in Tallahassee, is the first dispensary to open its doors in the state, according to a press release. The company plans to host a press conference in its store Tuesday afternoon

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Straight, white, male dynasties falling in Central Florida congressional districts

This year, Central Florida voters have an unprecedented diversity of candidates to pick from for the region’s five congressional districts, and at least one, probably two, and possibly more heterosexual-white-male dynasties will fall.

Straight, white, male members of Congress have always held the congressional seats in Florida’s 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Congressional Districts. But that racial-ethnic-gender-sexual-orientation dynasty is certain to change in at least one of those districts, highly likely to change in at least one other, and at least remotely possible to change in any of the five.

In those congressional races that include parts of the Orlando market, white, heterosexual men are a distinct minority of the 23 Republican or Democratic candidates who qualified last month for the Aug. 30 primary. Black, Latino, Asian or women candidates have qualified to run in all five districts.

Ten candidates are women. Three are African-Americans. Two are Vietnamese Americans. Two are Puerto Ricans. One is Brazilian-American. Two are openly gay, which in itself breaks new ground, twice over, for Central Florida.

“Some of that is because of the changes in the district, because of the Fair Districts Amendment. This is creating a number of new opportunities where incumbents are not necessarily as entrenched as they normally would be,’ said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “Also, you have seen, particularly in 9 and 10, the creation of Democratic districts, where gay candidates, or people of color, or women, particularly progressive women, are expected to do better. If they can win the primary, they have a good chance of winning the election.”

It’s not as if Central Florida voters have not had female or minority representation. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has represented Florida’s 5th Congressional district for the 22 years it stretched from Jacksonville’s black neighborhoods to Orlando’s. But redistricting has pushed that area out of the Orlando market, and brought CD 6 back into the Central Florida market. Also, Florida’s 24th Congressional District once stuck a leg into Central Florida, and Republican U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams and then-Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, both women, were elected to one term each from the Orlando area. But it’s long gone.

— CD 10, redrawn for this year to replace CD 5 as the likely minority-representation district for Central Florida, is guaranteed not to have a straight, white man in Congress next year, since none is running.

The district, which covers west Orange County and west and central Orlando, now has a majority of voters who are black or Latino, and Orlando’s largest LGBT communities. It’s also heavily Democratic now, so four Democrats are fighting for it.

Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who has the money, endorsements, campaign structure, resume, and personality to be the front-runner; and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who has the proven record of winning elections and a strong record for voters there, both are black women. Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe is a white man, but he could be the first openly gay congressman from Florida if elected, and he has more campaign money than Demings and at least as many political connections. Lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy is a Brazilian-American woman.

The Republican nominee, Thuy Lowe, is a Vietnamese-American woman.

— In CD 9, covering south-central Orange County, Osceola County and eastern Polk County, only Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky is a straight, white man. His Republican rival, Kissimmee Vice Mayor Wanda Rentas, is a Puerto Rican woman in a district that has a large Puerto Rican population.

But CD 9 also has a heavy Democratic lean, so, as in CD 10, the winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored to win in November.

The Democrats fighting for the nomination include state Sen. Darren Soto, who [along with Rentas] wants to be the first Puerto Rican congressman from Florida, and three white women, Susannah Randolph, Valleri Crabtree, and Dena Grayson. Crabtree, like Poe, could become Florida’s first openly gay member of Congress.

— In CD 8, straight, white, male incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey may have little to worry about seeking re-election in a district that is solidly Republican, covering east Orange County and all of Brevard and Indian River counties. Democrat Corry Westbrook, a white woman, may be his toughest opponent yet.

— The same may be true in CD 7, which covers north-central Orange and Seminole County. Straight, white, male U.S. Rep. John Mica may be heavily favored, first against his primary opponent, straight, white, male Mark Busch, and then in the general election. But national Democrats are investing heavily in Democratic nominee Stephanie Murphy, a Vietnamese-American woman, in a district they see trending their way.

— The majority of the ten straight, white, male congressional candidates running in Central Florida this year — six of them — are found in CD 6.

That district traditionally had been a Jacksonville-oriented, First Coast district, but was redrawn for this year to stretch through Volusia County into Lake County, giving it more voters in Central Florida than on the First Coast.

Even there, with incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and five other straight, white males running, Democrat Dwayne Taylor, a former Daytona Beach vice mayor who is African-American, may offer a serious challenge.

The other Republican candidates are state Rep. Fred Costello and businessman G.G. Galloway, who both are convinced the redrawn, Volusia County-centric district will eliminate much of DeSantis’s advantages of incumbency, money, and endorsements. The other Democrats are Bill McCullough, Jay McGovern, and George Pappas.

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Heckled offstage, Debbie Wasserman Schultz now faces tough re-election

The furor over leaked emails not only got U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz heckled out of her speaking role Monday at the Democratic National Convention; it’s also providing fodder for her congressional primary opponent.

Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation as Democratic National Committee chair for the sake of party unity after the e-mails indicated that under her leadership, the committee sought to undermine Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ campaign before Hillary Clinton became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee.

Her opponent in Florida’s Aug. 30 congressional primary is Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who tweeted Monday that “DWS must be defeated in this election and removed from Congress. It’s time to end her political career for good.”

Canova calls Wasserman Schultz a politician who bends to the interests of big donors and no longer votes as a progressive. That message – and the endorsement of Sanders – has helped the political upstart raise a surprising $2.2 million through June 30, mostly through small donations, after refusing to take money from political action committees.

It’s clear there is a lot of disdain for Wasserman Schultz, even among her home state’s contingent.

“To not be fair during this entire process, it’s kind of shameful,” delegate Sanjay Patel, a Sanders supporter from Brevard County said before she spoke at Florida delegation breakfast. He said he hoped she would be stripped of her speaking role at the convention.

That wish was granted after she was booed and heckled by her fellow Floridians. Sanders’ supporters nearly drowned out her remarks with screams of “Shame!” and “You’re ruining our democracy!” Her own supporters yelled back, standing on chairs and waving T-shirts bearing her name.

“We have to make sure that we move together in a unified way. We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive, we know that’s not the Florida that we know,” Wasserman Schultz shouted over the crowd. “The Florida that we know is united.”

Then she left the room, refusing to speak to reporters.

But Sanders had his own troubles when he tried to rally his own supporters toward party unity.

He got loud, prolonged applause when he mentioned Wasserman Shultz’s resignation as party chair, saying it “opens up the possibility of new leadership at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people and that will open the doors to the party to those people who want real change.”

But Sanders also was heckled and booed when he said voting for Clinton is key to defeating Donald Trump.

And while he was speaking, Wasserman Schultz announced she would not gavel in the convention, an embarrassing acknowledgment that her presence onstage would only showcase deep party divisions.

Wasserman Schultz is such a fixture in Florida politics that Canova is the first primary opponent she’s faced since being elected to the U.S. House in 2004.

“We know Debbie. No one has been more of a fighter and a champion for our values than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She has shown time and time again her resilience and she is not scared to stand up to the right and defend our platform and defend our values,” said Ana Cruz, a delegate from Tampa.

Still, there’s no telling how the email leak will hurt her re-election campaign, said Florida delegate Mitch Ceasar, who has known her for 24 years in Broward County politics.

“We live in odd times and the only thing we can be sure of is that the unpredictable will happen,” Ceasar said. “Florida loves to be the center of attention, regardless of the context.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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