Last week, I met with Tim Canova, running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz for the congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district. We met at his office in Hollywood to discuss his second campaign vs. the controversial congresswoman, but also to talk about much more, including: Bernie, Trump, Israel, and the state of the Democratic Party. (Some of the questions were submitted by Twitter users.)
GC: Would Bernie have won?
Tim: (Laughs) Yes, Bernie would have won, I think so. There was so much energy. The polls were showing a close race between Hillary and Donald Trump and of course those polls were pretty flawed. It wasn’t showing it too close between Bernie and Donald Trump. Most of the polls showed him [Bernie] with a significant lead. I think Hillary’s big mistake was not convincing Bernie to be part of the ticket. People wanted change.
GC: What do you think of Democrats using Russiagate and Trump instead of progressive issues as a platform?
TC: That’s a good question! I think Democrats are making a big mistake by doubling down and tripling down on Russiagate and also trying to make everything about Donald Trump’s personality. I think the Democrats have to offer something much more positive, a progressive agenda. Pelosi and Schumer, this is a leadership team that is capable of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Their track record over the last decade has been awful, the kinds of massive losses the Democrats have suffered all over this country, and I think it’s because the Democratic Party has had a real problem coming up with a progressive agenda that people can believe in. Unlike what Bernie Sanders was doing, unlike what we were doing in 2016 here.
GC: Talk about what you can do this time, what can you do to fight back against Debbie Wasserman Schultz and all of her corporate money advantages?
TC: Well, she definitely has those advantages and had a lot of it last time and we ran a great campaign. People seem to forget how far we came in such a short amount of time. I was a candidate for less than eight months and we had done a poll about three months before the primary and that poll had us down something like sixty points, where most people still didn’t even know who I was. The name recognition was almost nonexistent still. We put together a great grassroots campaign. We had an army of volunteers and the door knocking and phone banking was so impressive, and we came pretty close to unseating her. We still have serious questions about the ballot count, which is something we can talk about as well. We still have a lot of those assets, they don’t appear on a Federal Election Commission form, the number of volunteers we have in the district. We did a search not long ago of our volunteers of just four towns in the district and we had over 400 names on the list. This has always been a grassroots people’s campaign and it will be the rest of the time. So that is how we defeat her, we keep speaking truth about the issues, truth to power. We keep engaging voters on the issues that matter to them and we are going to win because of that grassroots energy.
GC: What will be different from last time?
TC: This time we protect the vote. The last time we had serious questions about the outcome and eventually a couple of months after the primary we put in an inspection request, to inspect the ballots under Florida’s public records law. The supervisors of elections in Broward county stonewalled us for six or seven months, we finally filed a lawsuit and I don’t know how many folks are aware of this but while the lawsuit was pending the supervisor destroyed all the paper ballots in our race. So, this is a violation of federal law, state law, defiance of the court, perjury, all kinds of crimes are involved here and we are still pressing the lawsuit forward. So we are looking to have that supervisor replaced and putting the establishment on notice that next time, not matter what the outcome is, we are going to be contesting this election.
GC: Let’s move to the issues facing Floridians. This question is from @xchilosa.
“What will you do to help the indigenous communities of Florida?”
TC: That’s a good question and we have a great issues statement, folks can go to TimCanova.com, to our campaign webpage and check out the issues page. We have a very detailed statement about helping tribal sovereignty, helping indigenous people with economic development in the district, as well as protecting sacred traditions, religious sovereignty, and what is most important, I hear this from the Seminoles and Miccosukee, that there are real concerns about the environmental issues, threats to their traditional lands. We took the lead, among other groups, in opposing the Sabal Trail Pipeline here in Florida. A lot of these pipelines go right through native land and threaten their lifestyles and communities. And also we have to do a lot better on climate change and protecting the Everglades, which is something very important to indigenous communities.
GC: @nn99org asks, “What do you think a fair minimum wage in the state would be?”
TC: Well, I have been advocating a $15 dollar an hour living wage, that is indexed to inflation. I think Congress should be taking a lead on this, it shouldn’t just be a state issue, it needs to be a national issue. You know President Obama, through executive order, basically mandated that any company that does business with the federal government has to pay a certain minimum wage, above what it had been. I think where that leads us though, is still a lot of economic inequality. What would be better I think would be an executive order that says that the top CEOs can make only 15 or 20 or 30 times as much as their rank and file employees, because right now they are something like three to four hundred times as much.
GC: There have been a bunch of questions surrounding your stance on Israel and AIPAC. Would you care to talk about your stance on the topic?
TC: Sure, we have a very good issues page on this topic on our website. I have been to Israel a number of times and to the occupied territories, and to some of the neighboring countries as well. I went there as a young man backpacking around, worked and lived on a kibbutz for months and I have been back really to study and lecture in Israel. So I am familiar with the conditions on the ground there. I have long been for a two-state solution and not just in lip service. I think we really have to figure out how to get there because the past couple of administrations, before the Trump administration, there was no progress during the Obama years either. I very much would like to see two states, a Palestinian state and the State of Israel, living side by side in peace and that is going to require a lot of carrots and sticks. I think you can’t leave out the influence of outside powers that are making peace more difficult. The United States needs to takes the lead in working with other countries. This is all the more reason that the United States should not be in a new cold war with Russia. We need their cooperation and the cooperation of other countries to bring, not just the Palestinians, but other regional powers to the negotiating table. [And] I know a lot of friends of Israel don’t want to hear that, they want to hear that it is only going to be bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and certainly we need those type of bilateral negotiations, but at the same time there really needs to be some kind of a regional arms control agreement. This goes well beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we’ve seen wars of regime change over the last fifteen years now, without end. This is like a perpetual war, a perpetual bloodbath in the region and it is fueled by a number of things. You have got two regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, that have their own internal sectarian war between Shiite and Sunni, that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. At the same time, you have all of the international arms dealers that are making a fortune in this region. So I just don’t think you can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without trying to solve the wider regional conflict at the same time.
GC: From @stephaniequilao: “I’ve been noticing that Tim has been tweeting more about animal rights and issues, which is awesome. What’s inspired that? Factory farming should also be a top progressive issue because it entails social injustice, climate change, corporate greed, and environment.”
TC: Well I have long been concerned about animal welfare and animal rights. As a law professor, I have twice taught classes on animal law. The students run a wide range of opinions; we have had hunters in my class and people that are complete animal rights [activists] and vegans. It is an interesting area not just to study, but we should all be concerned for not just how the dogs and cats and strays are treated, but the conditions on factory farms for instance. This [is] not a healthy environment for people to be consuming animals that are in diseased conditions. So having more humanity, more humane treatment for animals is better for people as well and better karma all around.
GC: For the next question I have actually combined two questions. Someone wanted to know what your goals were once in office and another person asked if you could name two of your top issues.
TC: I will tell you what my most important goals are not. It is not just to get re-elected and have a long career on capitol hill. The stories that I hear, it doesn’t matter if you are elected as a Republican or a Democrat, if you want to be on a key committee you are told by the party leadership that you have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the party. How are you going to raise it? You are going to make phone calls to all the CEOs of the key companies that care about that particular committee. Whether it is an energy committee or a healthcare committee. So I am not going to be playing that type of a game. When we get elected we are really going to owe a lot to the American people because this is a grassroots campaign and our donor base are just average folks who are giving $17 dollar contributions on average. I like to say [that] Debbie Wasserman Schultz is owned by these corporations and I am owned by the American people and I am happy for that. So I think I will be in a position to advocate for campaign finance reform. That will be a top priority. As a law professor, I have worked for years studying and advocating on the federal reserve. In fact, in 2011, Senator Bernie Sanders appointed me to an advisory committee on reforming the federal reserve. So I do think public banking, that will be a major priority of mine. Both reforming the federal reserve, advocating for a national infrastructure bank, we are way overdue for that. If you want to have a green new deal, you have to have these kinds of financing mechanisms to make it a reality. We can have public banking through the postal system so that folks with low incomes can have checking accounts and we can have state-chartered banks as well. So, there is a whole big agenda and I think what both these have in common, whether it is advocating for campaign finance reform or for public banking, it is the idea of putting people first. That this is a grassroots, people-centered campaign and I want to go to Washington not to be serving corporate interest, but to be making sure that life is better for average folks, like you and I.
GC: Can you talk a little bit about your stance on DACA and the DREAMers?
TC: I come from an immigrant family, myself. My dad was a DREAMer, they didn’t call them DREAMers back then, but my father came to this country as a two year old, on a boat from Europe. He was part of a very extensive immigrant family that settled in Brooklyn. It was interesting to see how his life developed, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II and then, like a lot of Italian Americans who served in the war, was the beneficiary of the G.I. Bill of Rights, which had the effect of integrating Italians into the mainstream of society. It made them “white” so to speak, that’s what sociologists have said about the effect of the G.I. Bill. This is something we don’t do well anymore. We don’t integrate people together well because we don’t have programs like these anymore. Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the need of a G.I. Bill of Rights to help lower income, middle class, working class folks of every color. So, I am all for finding a pathway of citizenship for the DREAMers and a quick pathway. It should not be ten or twenty years. That is crazy. It should be a quick path to citizenship, but by the same token we need national service programs to start integrating us together, and we have to start talking very seriously about the conditions south of our border and in other countries. Every time there are these wars of regime change there is a refugee crisis that results from it. The Syrian refugee crisis is upsetting European society and politics now. The United States has been involved in military coups in South and Central America for years and those are the countries of origin of an awful lot of the undocumented labor that is coming our way. So, we need a new deal in this country, but we need to be supporting new deals all over the world at the same time.
GC: Finally, @bourgeoisalien would like to know if you are getting anywhere near the level of smears that Bernie Sanders gets on social media daily, and if so, do you think we should call it out and correct the lies or ignore it?
TC: I am getting similar smears I think. Mostly through the mainstream media, more than social media. There is an awful lot that I let go off my shoulders, you can’t respond to every troll out there. But the mainstream media is an important problem and I do think it needs to be called out. For instance the mainstream media here [in] South Florida, the Sun-Sentinel, and The Miami Herald, the two major newspapers are owned by the second and third largest newspaper chains in the country. So these are corporate decisions that are made thousands of miles away from South Florida on how to attack me, a progressive, for going after Wasserman Schultz who has been in their pocket and at their beck and call for years. That is a problem that we see throughout the media; Bernie faced a media blackout, we faced a media blackout quite a bit and I think it is important to respond, but not just respond to dispute the smear, but to go out there and spread our campaign’s message far and wide.