An open letter to Debbie Wasserman Schultz on a proposed schedule for debates

Dear Representative Wasserman Schultz:

I was initially pleased to receive the news that you would debate me. However, it has been four days since you made your “Yes, I will debate my opponent” statement to Anthony Man and Rosemary O’Hara of the Sun Sentinel newspaper and I have still not heard from you or anyone on your campaign about setting a schedule for debates. I understand that at least one local TV reporter called your office last week about scheduling a debate, and that he has still received no response.

I was also told that last week that you represented to Rosemary O’Hara, the Editorial Page Editor of the Sun Sentinel, that negotiations for debates were already underway. Your representation, of course, was completely false. I assume you intended to take the debate issue off the table while seeking endorsements and to restart your stalled campaign after weeks of scandal associated with your “resignation” from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Perhaps you have no intention of debating at all and that this was simply a smokescreen. I understand. It’s a strategy used by many entrenched incumbents who are fearful of having to defend their records.

I originally invited you to have a series of six debates some months ago. You ignored it. About a month ago, you stated that you were “too busy” to debate or appear at a town hall or candidates’ forum. With Congress now in a seven-week recess and your DNC duties well behind you, there is simply no reason to refuse to participate in debates. Yet, last week you failed to appear without explanation at two town hall candidates’ forums, one hosted by the Miramar Pembroke Pines Chamber of Commerce and another hosted by the South Florida Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI), both AFL-CIO constituencies groups, and by the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC).

I therefore remain skeptical of your commitment to debate.

Debates have come to play a most important function in our democratic system of governance. They are crucial for voters to help them make informed decisions and to better understand the most salient differences between candidates. That’s why the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida recently called on Florida Democratic candidates to face the voters in debates and town hall candidate forums.

In my April 6th letter to you, I quoted one of your own statements in support of the Democratic presidential debates, in which you expressed support for the candidates debating every day. I recognize this as cynical hyperbole. While I would welcome debates every day, I know you would never agree to that. However, I do propose a series of three debates, each two hours in length, during the period of early voting, August 15th to August 28th. With so many pressing issues of concern to voters, we owe it to our party and fellow citizens to make ourselves fully available to discuss a range of issues, including economic policy, support for senior citizens, students and education, healthcare, the environment, criminal justice and public safety, campaign finance and political reform, and foreign policy and national security.

Tens of thousands of voters have already signed petitions calling on you to debate me. Perhaps we will have them delivered to you as your silence continues. Voters rightfully expect you to defend your record as their U.S. Representative and to appear before them in public debates and town halls.

Unfortunately, in the eyes of so many, your decision to continue dodging debates reflects contempt for fair and open elections and for democracy itself.


Tim Canova,

Democrat for Congress, Florida-23rd