EXCLUSIVE: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Primary Opponent: I’m Fighting a ‘Rigged System’ with Trump-Bernie Coalition

<> on January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Andrew Burton/Getty

Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Florida primary opponent Tim Canova is serious.

International trade law professor Canova tells Breitbart News that he’s fighting against a “rigged system” in his battle for the Democratic nomination in South Florida’s 23rd district, which will hold its primary at the end of August.

“When I compare myself with my opponent, it’s like night and day. Yes we’re both Democrats but we’re very different kinds of Democrats,” Canova said. “If I beat her a lot of people will step up.”

His campaign began as a local challenge to Wasserman Schultz on behalf of the neglected voters of her Miami-area district, which she has only won twice since the map was last re-drawn. But now Canova is well aware of the national implications: the chance to take out a main cog in the Democratic machine and spark national change in his party. He’s got Bernie Sanders on his side, and he’s focusing on the kinds of populist issues on which he says Sanders supporters and Donald Trump supporters “overlap.”

“Most of the delegation has top staffers who work on trade issues. That wasn’t the case with Wasserman Schultz,” said Canova, who has an intense interest in the harmful consequences of President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, for which Wasserman Schultz led the charge to give Obama fast-track authority to approve. Canova was in touch with Wasserman Schultz’s office before he even ran.

“I was told to call her office to talk about TPP. I was told to talk to her legislative aide in Washington DC. I sent two emails to this aide and I never got a response.”

“For eight years, corporate lobby money had been banned from the DNC. Now, since Debbie Wasserman Schultz overturned that ban, the DNC is able to take corporate lobby money,” Canova explained, noting the preponderance of lobbyists who are now Democratic superdelegates backing Hillary Clinton.

“This is rigging the system just by changing the rules,” he said. “This is someone who pretends to be a progressive!”

Canova, who is courting union endorsements, has locked up the Communications Workers of America and National Nurses United. But he says the pro-Wasserman Schultz Democratic machine is already “pulling a fast one” on him in his district.

“The head of the Broward County” chapter of the AFL-CIO “is Dan Reynolds who is a crony of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Right here in my district he is trying to push through this endorsement against his own rules. He’s supposed to give our campaign the opportunity to be screened and he never did. We’re now appealing to Richard Trumka, who is a lawyer and believes in union democracy. I’m just hoping he doesn’t let this stand.”

In Canova’s corner slouches the most famous professor type fighting the Democratic Establishment: Bernie. Sanders sent out a pro-Canova email this weekend blasting “establishment economics,” which helped Canova raise $250,000 in its immediate aftermath.

“I was driving from one campaign event to another on Saturday. My phone rang and I was told by somebody on my campaign that Bernie had just been on TV saying he favored me. I don’t know if they even broadcasted it. Then I got a call from a producer at CNN saying that Jake Tapper had said he favored my campaign.”

“I spoke to him Sunday and he told me he was going to send out a joint fundraising email. It was the first time I spoke to him since early 2012,” when Sanders appointed Canova to an advisory committee alongside Jeffrey Sachs and a “bunch of luminary liberal economists.”

“He’s a very nice guy. It wasn’t the longest call. We’re all busy. But it was a very nice call.”

“Take a look at who’s voting for Trump and who’s voting for Sanders. There’s a lot of overlap. I see it all the time. They’re both critical of these trade deals.”

Canova was not aiming to affect major change in the Democratic Party, but he’s now ready for the implications that his run will have.

“In a way, my ambitions were less high. I really just wanted to replace her in Congress, to have somebody who will represent this district,” he said. “This district has a lot of problems. There are communities with persistently high unemployment and underemployment. It feels like the economy’s been stuck in neutral.”

“I’ve been teaching for 20 years. If you hang around a university long enough it can be a bleak place. These kids are going deep into debt and going into a weak job market. A lot of them are still living with their folks.”

Canova’s focus on the “corrupting influence of corporate money in politics” and on global trade deals makes him a similar candidate to Paul Nehlen, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in his home Wisconsin district on the other side of the aisle, proving that 2016’s populist revolt against Washington’s “rigged system” is truly a bipartisan affair.