U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has turned back a strong primary challenge and will likely be re-elected to a seventh term in Congress.
The Associated Press declared that Wasserman Schultz won her Florida Democratic primary Tuesday against law professor Tim Canova, a Bernie Sanders-backed challenger, with more than 57 percent of the vote.
"The result was so incredibly gratifying," Wasserman Schultz said. "It really fills my heart to know the people I have represented said with this margin and this vote that `We know her and we have been able to count on her for all these years and we want her to keep fighting for us.' They aren't going to let millions of dollars from people outside the state decide who is going to represent our community in Washington."
It was the first time Wasserman Schultz had faced a primary opponent in her heavily Democratic suburban Fort Lauderdale district. Canova had raised about $3.3 million, an extraordinary amount for a primary challenger with no political experience. She raised $3 million but got backing from a political action committee.
Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University and a first-time candidate, had a tough challenge in trying to top Wasserman Schultz in the District 23 race.
District 23, which covers parts of Broward and Miami-Dade including Miami Beach, has been in Wasserman Schultz's hands since it was redistricted from the 20th District in 2013. Wasserman Schultz represented the 20th District beginning in 2004.
Wasserman Schultz, 49, resigned as DNC chairwoman after the leak of thousands of emails by the group WikiLeaks just before the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in July. The 19,000 emails showed that supposedly neutral party officials were favoring Hillary Clinton over Sanders during their primary contest for the presidential nomination.
"I have not lost the trust in my constituents. I have maintained the trust of my constituents throughout this process, I came home after being in Philadelphia to the warmest embrace, enthusiasm all across the district," Wasserman Schultz told NBC 6 recently.
Canova, 56, gained the backing of Sanders in May, and has received fundraising help from Sanders' Our Revolution organization. Wasserman Schultz has been backed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Both have been critical of each other on a number of issues, including trade, healthcare and campaign finance. Canova has accused Wasserman Schultz of taking money from banks and corporations, while Wasserman Schultz has said Canova's funding comes from interests outside of Florida.
"Who are these outside owners? They are like all of us, they are schoolteachers, they're nurses, they are working families all over the country, they were students, they are seniors," Canova said. "Look at Debbie Wasserman Schultz's outside donors. This should be the real issue."
"I think it is unfortunate the way my opponent has run his campaign, that's not the kind of campaign that I run," Wasserman Schultz said. "I run on my record, I talk about the issues that are important to families and seniors across my district because I am living through those issues with them."
Canova said he was putting stock is his field operation.
"Hundreds of volunteers knocking on doors and they're not just knocking on doors and leaving literature, they are having conversations with people in this district," Canova said. "This is what democracy looks like, democracy is not a monologue, it is a dialogue."
Wasserman Schultz will face the winner of the Republican primary, Joe Kaufman, who beat Martin Feigenbaum Tuesday. Kaufman lost the 2014 District 23 race to Wasserman Schultz by a hefty margin.