In the final stretch of the competitive primary in Florida’s 23rd congressional district, Florida Democrats are pushing back against Tim Canova’s attacks on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Israel record.
As first reported by Jewish Insider, in a new campaign leaflet distributed to voters in the district, Canova questioned whether Wasserman Schultz can “really be trusted to protect Israel’s security in the future” after she voted against the Iran nuclear deal.
Canova, who is backed by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, tied himself to top Democrats who voted against the Iran nuclear deal, including two local House members who have endorsed his challenger, the incumbent Congresswoman. “When called upon to protect Israel some legislators step up,” the pamphlet reads, quoting excerpts from statements issued by Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel and Senator Chuck Schumer against the Iran deal. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz waffled back and forth before voting for the Iran nuclear deal, choosing party and personal political ambition over principle. Tim Canova sides with Deutch, Schumer, and Frankel.”
“As Jewish representatives from South Florida, we are frankly disappointed that Mr. Canova would use us so disingenuously,” Congress members Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch said in a joint statement on Thursday. “We both strongly support Debbie Wasserman Schultz for re-election, in no small part due to her deep commitment to Israel and her tireless advocacy on behalf of the Jewish community in South Florida and around the world. We are calling on Tim Canova to immediately stop using our names and images.”
But despite his harsh attack on Wasserman Schultz, Canova seems to be still conflicted with himself over the nuclear deal. During an event at the Sunny Isles Beach Democratic Club last Monday, Canova said he can’t tell if he would’ve voted for or against the nuclear deal since he wasn’t a member of Congress at the time. He added, “I don’t want to get into a big debate about Iran. I will say that now that the agreement has been adopted, I’m for it. I don’t believe in tearing it up. It should be enforced, it should be strictly implemented.”
In an interview with Jewish Insider, former Congressman Ron Klein accused Canola of playing politics with an issue like Israel just to play to the anti-Iran deal voters in the district while at the same time appeasing the Bernie Sanders side of the party. “I’ve known [Wasserman Schultz since 1992. She is a stalwart pro-Israel person, and there’re very few exceptions to that,” Klein said. “I think him criticizing her about the Iran deal vote, and then himself going back and forth in his own position is a little bit credulous.”
According to Klein, Canola is trying to have it both ways. “He is trying to play to the Bernie Sanders side of the Democratic primary, which supports the Iran deal, and on the other hand, there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who don’t support it,” he said. “It is just hypocritical to call her out on her position when she gave it a lot of thought and has a lifetime record of being pro-Israel. He is playing politics with this issue, and it is not something we should play politics with.”
Wasserman Schultz is heavily favored to keep her seat in the August 30 primary. Just this week, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton endorsed her reelection bid during a campaign swing through South Florida, and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe bIden announced their support for Wasserman Schultz in March.