Sun Sentinel Endorsement: Renominate Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the accomplished incumbent in District 23

South Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial Board

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board interview with U.S. House of Representatives, District 23 candidate Jen Perelman and incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

Politics, it was famously said, is the art of the possible. As such, it is where idealism meets reality.

That describes the contest for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 23, which covers southern Broward County and five communities in coastal Miami-Dade. The district’s Democratic and liberal preferences are personified by incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 53, of Weston, who is seeking her ninth consecutive two-year term.

We enthusiastically recommend her re-nomination. She has served with distinction.

Although her politics are clearly liberal — ask any Republican — they’re not liberal enough for Jennifer Perelman, her challenger from the left. Perelman supporters include Our Revolution, Maryann Williamson and Andrew Yang, and a group called Brand New Congress, whose other endorsees include the controversial Democratic congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Perelman, 49, who lives in Davie, has been active in the League of Women Voters and in local Democratic Party organizations. She practiced corporate law for five years before becoming a full-time mother. She lists her current occupation as an artist/designer and says she has been helping former prisoners and probationers regain their voting rights.

Perelman’s enthusiasm and idealism remind us of the 25-year old Wasserman Schultz, two years out of the University of Florida with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, who campaigned door to door to become the youngest woman elected to the Florida Legislature. She went in as an outspoken freshman and learned, to her credit, how to speak less, listen more and keep an open mind. After 12 years in Tallahassee, she went to the Congress. She has never lost an election. She is the mother of three children and a breast cancer survivor.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, is seeking re-election in Florida’s 23rd congressional district, which includes parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, is seeking re-election in Florida’s 23rd congressional district, which includes parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. (Courtesy U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz)

She chaired the Democratic National Committee in 2016 until a WikiLeaks e-mail dump was timed to embarrass the committee.

She is still one of the most accomplished members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the senior members of the Appropriations Committee, where she chairs the subcommittee on military construction and veterans’ affairs. She is contending to chair the full appropriations committee in the next Congress. It could mean hundreds of millions of dollars more for education, the Everglades and other state interests.

It would be irrational and pointless for District 23 Democrats to forsake Wasserman Schultz’s influence, access and experience for an untested opponent who would start with zero seniority and a lot of lessons to learn.

The two candidates’ core ideals are virtually indistinguishable, as displayed by their written answers, in their Sun Sentinel questionnaires, to our request for their top three priorities.

Wasserman Schultz: “the health and safety of the American people, environmental sustainability, and economic and racial inequality.”

Perelman: “Lack of healthcare, climate crisis, economic justice for all.”

Perelman’s strongest differences with the incumbent illustrate the conflict between idealism and reality.

Both believe health care should be a human right, but Wasserman Schultz advocates an incremental approach, the public option. Perelman insists on Medicare for All, contending that it is “ludicrous to have a system that links healthcare with employment.” In fact, some other countries, including Japan and Germany, achieve universal coverage through workplace-based plans.

Wasserman Schultz helped enact President Obama’s Affordable Care Act 10 years ago, including the public option — the purchase of government insurance as an alternative to private plans — that the House supported but the Senate resisted. For now, that’s still the realistic alternative. No one has explained credibly how to pay the enormous cost of Medicare for All or persuade voters to give up employer-sponsored plans that may be more generous.

Perelman veers into demagoguery in her attack on Wasserman Schultz (and on virtually all congressional incumbents) for accepting contributions from corporate, labor and interest group PACs. She claims Wasserman Schultz “is on numerous corporate and special interest payrolls.”

Wasserman Schultz cosponsored House Bill 1, a massive reform bill that would provide full disclosure of dark money contributors, as well as major improvements in mail voting, registration and election security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stifled it.

According to Open, Wasserman Schultz’s contributions of $1,156,125 through March 31 owed 60 percent to large individual contributions, 8.7 percent to small donors ($200 or less) and just under 30 percent to PACs. At the same reporting date, Perelman had raised $156,098, more than half of it (55 percent) from small donations, 28.7 percent from larger individual donations and none from PACs.

There isn’t enough space to do justice to either candidate’s record or platform. We encourage you to read the extensive questionnaires they completed and to watch our joint interview with them on