Sanders Slams Closed Process, Rift With Top Democrats Widens

Bernie Sanders

Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks to an estimated 5,000 people during a rally at Vado Elementary School in Vado, NM, Saturday, May 21, 2016. Photographer: Jett Loe/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP

Photographer: Jett Loe/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP
  • Senator throws support to Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent
  • Democratic infighting erupts heading toward July convention

Bernie Sanders stepped up his feud with Democratic leadership, saying he’s backing the primary opponent of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s national committee chairwoman, and taking on an “undemocratic” nominating process.

“Clearly, I favor her opponent. His views are much closer to mine than Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s,” the Vermont senator said in an interview with CNN on Sunday. Sanders added he wouldn’t reappoint the congresswoman to head the committee if he’s elected president in November.

Bernie Sanders at a rally in Vado on May 21.
Bernie Sanders at a rally in Vado on May 21.
Photographer: Jett Loe/The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP

Sanders’s support of Tim Canova over Wasserman Schultz, 49, underscores the divisions festering within the Democratic Party going into the final month of state nominating contests, including the delegate-rich California primary on June 7, and the national convention in late July.

With Hillary Clinton’s lead over Sanders in the nomination race all but insurmountable, she and party leaders had been looking to take advantage of a split in the Republican Party over Donald Trump’s candidacy. Instead, they’re contending with their own infighting.

Nevada Boils Over

Some of Sanders’s supporters have assailed Wasserman Schultz’s leadership, accusing her and the national committee of tilting the nomination process to boost Clinton, the former secretary of state.

Those divisions boiled over last weekend when some Sanders backers lashed out at a Nevada state party convention where they felt the rules and leaders unfairly favored Clinton. They booed speakers, including Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a longtime progressive member of the Democratic Party, and some hurled profanity and death threats at the state party chairwoman.

Sanders, under pressure to condemn the events, issued a statement that blamed the Democratic Party establishment for fueling his supporters’ anger.

Canova, 56, a law professor challenging the incumbent in Wasserman Schultz’s south Florida congressional district, is well known to Sanders, having provided advice on Wall Street reforms to the Democratic Socialist in 2011.

‘Progressive Campaign’

“I am proud to know that Bernie Sanders is favoring our progressive campaign to #RetireDWS,” Canova said in a Facebook post. “Like Senator Sanders, I’m running a campaign that’s truly backed by the people, not big corporations.”

Sanders on Sunday spoke about his frustration with much of the Democratic Party establishment, particularly the office-holders and former officials who will be able to support any candidate they choose as “superdelegates” at the party’s July convention, and who have overwhelmingly gotten behind Clinton.

“We need a serious discussion about the role of superdelegates,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Clearly the current situation is undemocratic. It is ill-advised, and it needs to change.”

Sanders said getting rid of superdelegates entirely “may not be a bad idea,” although for the current electoral cycle he’s suggested the superdelegates should flip their support to him. He also suggested top Democrats were running a process closed to many average citizens and said he would head into the party’s convention pushing a platform that stands up “for the middle class and the working class of this country.”

‘Effective Fighter’

Florida’s congressional primary will be held on Aug. 30. In 2014 Wasserman Schultz ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination in her district, and won the general election with almost 63 percent of the vote.

“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 in an e-mailed statement. “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.”

Fundraising E-Mail

Sanders sent a fundraising e-mail Sunday urging supporters to split a $2.70 contribution between his campaign and Canova’s, which already has had notable success in fundraising for a primary challenger against a well-connected incumbent.

“We need a Congress with members who believe, like Bernie, that we cannot change a corrupt system by taking its money,” said the e-mail, which was signed by Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver.

The e-mail also said that Sanders, who serves as an independent in the Senate, would “add a dozen or more additional candidates” for support in the coming days. In April Sanders backed the campaigns of three progressive Democrats running for Congress, including Zephyr Teachout, an academic running in New York’s 19th district.

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