US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has taken another step in his fight against his party's establishment: by endorsing the opponent of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz ahead of her upcoming primary on 30 August. On Sunday (22 May), Sanders stated that if he is elected president, he would terminate her current chairmanship of the DNC.
In an interview on CNN's State of the Union, Sanders said he favours Tim Canova, who is challenging Wasserman Schultz in Florida's 23rd congressional district. "Well, clearly, I favour her opponent," Sanders said. "His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz's." Likewise, Canova is a Sanders supporter.
The Vermont senator also indicated he would not reappoint Wasserman Schultz to chair the DNC. "Do I think she is the kind of chair that the Democratic Party needs? No, I don't," Sanders said on CBS' Face the Nation. "Frankly, what the Democratic Party is about is running around to rich people's homes and raising obscene sums of money from wealthy people. What we need to do is say to working-class people: we are on your side."
According to CNN, Canova has accused Wasserman Schultz of ignoring her home district's economic issues. "In her own votes in the House of Representatives, I think she's making the problems worse," Canova previously told CNN. Canova also appeared sceptical that the DNC chair could unite the party, following issues in the presidential primary.
"If the Democrats come out of their convention united, it might not be because of Debbie Wasserman Shultz, but in spite of her efforts," he said.
Canova also expressed his gratitude for Sanders' endorsement. "I'm so proud to know that Bernie Sanders favours our campaign for progress for all. Like Sen Sanders, I'm running a campaign that's truly backed by the people, not big corporations—one that stands up to Wall Street interests instead of cozying up to them," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Wasserman Schultz responded that she would remain neutral in the Democratic presidential race, despite Sanders' endorsement of her primary rival.
"I am so proud to serve the people of Florida's 23rd district and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress," Wasserman Schultz said. "Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent, I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall."
Sanders and the Democratic establishment have been locked in a war of words, which escalated after chaos erupted between supporters of the two candidates at the Nevada Democratic convention on 14 May. Following the incident, Washerman Schultz called on Sanders to condemn the violence and death threats by his supporters.
The Vermont senator currently lags behind rival Hillary Clinton in terms of delegates and votes. With superdelegates included, Clinton leads with 2,293 delegates to Sanders' 1,533. Democratic candidates need 2,383 delegates to clinch the party nomination. The two candidates will face off again on 7 June in six states: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.