President Barack Obama named U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida as his pick to be the new head of the Democratic National Committee.
Vice President Joe Biden informed DNC members of Obama’s selection in an e-mail yesterday after former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who had served as the party’s chairman since 2009, resigned the post after announcing that he is running for the U.S. Senate. The DNC members must confirm Wasserman Schultz’s selection, which is considered a foregone conclusion.
Wasserman Schultz, 44, was first elected to her House seat in 2004. Her heavily Democratic district includes much of Fort Lauderdale.
She formerly served in the Florida legislature. She made history as the youngest woman elected to state House when she won her seat at the age of 26. She is a breast cancer survivor who went public with her battle with the disease in 2009 to help promote the benefits of early diagnosis.
“In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit, and her ability to overcome adversity,” Biden said in his e-mail. “President Obama expressed great admiration for her as a leader, and he was honored that she accepted this important challenge on behalf of the Democratic Party.”
Wasserman Schultz has party-organization experience, serving as co-chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “red to blue” effort in the 2006 campaign, in which Democrats won control of the House from the Republicans. The program was designed to bolster prospects of Democratic candidates in Republican-held districts.
During the 2008 campaign, she worked with the DCCC’s incumbent-retention program. She was also part of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team in the chamber. Pelosi, a California Democrat, relinquished the speakership in early January after Republicans won the House majority in the 2010 elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called Wasserman Schultz an “outstanding pick” to lead the DNC and praised her “reputation as a tenacious fighter on behalf of middle-class families.”
“I know she will continue to be a strong voice for Democratic values in her new role,” Reid said in a statement.
Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the DNC “shares my core mission to help Democrats succeed -- electorally and legislatively -- so that we are able to deliver on and win the future for the American people.”
She would be the first woman elected by the membership as head of the DNC. Two women have served as appointed leaders of the party: Jean Westwood for five months in 1972 and Debra DeLee for two months in 1994 and 1995.
Friend of Giffords
Wasserman Schultz is among the House members closest to Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat wounded in the head during a shooting rampage while greeting constituents on Jan. 8 in Tucson. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was arrested and charged in the attack that left six people dead.
Wasserman Schultz has visited Giffords regularly as she recovers. She was one of those in the hospital room when Giffords raised her left arm just days after the shooting. “It felt like a miracle,” Wasserman Schultz said at the time.