FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wins her Florida Democratic primary.
Wasserman Schultz beat challenger Tim Canova, a Bernie Sanders-backed law professor, who was making his first run for office.
She walked into her primary election night party at a Sunrise restaurant Tuesday night to cheers and applause.
“It feels particularly sweet because I had faith that it was the people of our congressional district who should decide who should represent us and not people who don’t live here,” she told the crowd of supporters. “And I was also hoping that they knew me.”
Wasserman Schultz began Primary Day early on Tuesday, greeting voters at Rick Case Honda in Weston.
She told voters she would continue working to protect social security, healthcare, Medicare and fight for good jobs and education.
“Helping the people that I represent build the cornerstones of a middle class life and that I want to continue to be their voice and their vote,” she said.
In Wasserman Schultz’s previous elections, she never drew a primary opponent in her suburban Fort Lauderdale district or a serious Republican challenge. In general elections, she received at least 60 percent of the vote in a 2-to-1 Democratic district that stretches from the ocean to the Everglades.
Wasserman Schultz, 49, raised $3 million but was assisted by spending from political action committees. She has also gotten backing from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Canova, 56, raised $3.3 million, according to his filings with the Federal Elections Commission, an almost unheard of amount for a first-time candidate and primary challenger.
The two candidates held their only debate on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS4 News.
Former presidential candidate Sanders backed Canova after Wasserman Schultz faced scrutiny and resigned from her post as Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.
That happened after hacked emails came to light showing the party might have showed favoritism to Hillary Clinton over Sanders.
The email leaks motivated Canova’s backers, who said she is part of a Wall Street takeover of the party.
But Wasserman Schultz said it’s not an issue she’s hearing much about from her constituents.
“They’ve been in my corner and filled me with their warmest embrace that they know I’ve gone to bat for them and it’s not something that’s come up while I’ve been on the campaign trail,” she said.
She believes voters do not cast their ballots based on controversy.
“People across South Florida care about jobs. They care about social security. They care about having a representative that’s going to be their voice and that’s going to have their back,” she said. “So that political extraneous stuff is not something that is part of their life.”
Canova, who teaches at Nova Southeastern University, cast his ballot at the First Baptist Church of Hollywood Tuesday morning full of optimism about a race many felt was impossible to win.
He said he’s not ready to concede to Wasserman Schultz.
“The fight goes on to reclaim democracy for this country,” he told supporters.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)