WASHINGTON — Florida Democrats who opposed the Iran nuclear deal are lashing out at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger, Tim Canova, for using them in his campaign ads and for vacillating on his own stance regarding the accord.
Canova recently unveiled a pamphlet linking him to prominent members of Congress who voted against the landmark agreement. Two of them, however, have endorsed his opponent, and one questions the first-time candidate’s consistency on the issue.
The ad cites New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Florida Rep. Ted Deutch and Florida Rep. Lois Frankel, and includes quotes from each of them detailing their objections to the deal. Deutch and Frankel support Wasserman Schultz, while Schumer has not taken a side.
Frankel immediately sought to distance herself from Canova’s referencing her, despite her differences with Wasserman Schultz on the Iran issue.
“It was wrong of him to do that,” she told The Times of Israel. “I am an ardent Debbie Wasserman Schultz supporter. I have known her since she was out of college, and in Congress, I talk to her every single day. And no one should ever question her commitment to the security of Israel.”
Deutch also took exception to being used in the ad.
“He knows that I endorsed Debbie, and that alone would be reason to stop using my name in his campaign materials,” Deutch told The Times of Israel on Thursday. “But the bigger issue is that he sent out a campaign flyer that says he would have voted one way in the deal, the way that I voted, only to then say that he’s not sure how he would have voted. And that is just something that I resent.”
While Canova has distributed the anti-Iran deal pamphlet at certain gatherings, he has said elsewhere he’s not sure how he would have voted if he were in Washington at the time, and also that he now supports the deal as long as it’s rigorously enforced.
Asked by an audience at the Sunny Isles Beach Democratic Club on August 1 what stance he would have taken on President Barack Obama’s signature diplomatic initiative, Canova said, “I was critical of the Iran agreement. How would I have voted? I can’t tell you, I wasn’t a member of Congress.”
After some back-and-forth, he added, “I don’t want to get into a big debate about Iran. I will say that now that the agreement has been adopted, I’m for it. I don’t believe in tearing it up. It should be enforced, it should be strictly implemented.”
Deutch upbraided Canova for his variant postures, saying “what’s really troubling” to him is that Canova says “he would have taken the same position that I took, but that he only says it to some audiences, and then tells other audiences he might have voted a different way, and then says he doesn’t want to ‘play that game’ because it’s hard for him to know what he would have done if he were in that seat.”
“Well, it’s not particularly courageous a year after the fact to say that you would have been against the deal if the next day you’re saying something different to a different audience,” he added.
In a July interview with the Sun Sentinel editorial board, Canova asserted he was for the deal’s “strict implementation” now that it’s been adopted. When pressed by one of the board members over statements he’d made to the effect that he would have voted for it, Canova said, “Oh, I’ve been quoted both ways.”
Prodded to clarify whether he’d previously told that reporter he would have voted for the deal, he responded, “I’m not so sure that’s accurate. Look, I’m not going to, sort of, play that game. I don’t know exactly how I would have voted for it because I wasn’t sitting in that seat.”
Wasserman Schultz, who was recently forced to resign as chair of the Democratic National Committee over emails that revealed a preference for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, was not expecting a primary face-off in her heavily Democratic Miami district, until Canova announced his candidacy in January.
But when the 56-year-old law professor was galvanized by an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he started to successfully fundraise, accumulating more than $3.2 million thus far for the August 30 contest.
Wasserman Schultz raised $2.7 million through June, and numerous pundits have said her name-recognition and experience in the district should help her clinch the primary.
Tim Canova’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.