This Pro-Pot Candidate is Running Against Hillary Clinton’s Former Campaign Chair
After allegations of corruption in 2016, Tim Canova once again tries to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The last time Tim Canova ran against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) the race was tainted with scandal and allegations of corruption. Their campaigns for Representative of Florida’s Broward County looked much like the Democratic presidential primary that year: a candidate who wanted to turn a crooked system on its head challenging an anti-pot establishment Democrat.
Canova, raised millions in his campaign against Wasserman Schultz, fueled by the Bernie Sanders wave and the national scandal in which his opponent was forced to resign as the Democratic National Committee’s chair after leaked emails revealed that she had been openly biased against Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. Now, with the 2018 midterms just months away, the filth of 2016 still hasn’t washed away.
“I’d rather not be talking about 2016,” Canova tells Herb, but there is one major sticking point that has him returning to the race.
In November of 2016, Canova filed a public records request to review the paper ballots from the race in which he lost to Rep. Wasserman Schultz. Last May, Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes was found guilty of illegally destroying those ballots before Canova or the court had a chance to see them.
In her testimony, Snipes said that the destruction of the ballots was a mistake on the part of her staff saying, “nothing on my part…was intentional…I trust my staff. They have the responsibility of giving me information that’s correct.”
Under federal election laws, Snipes was meant to hold onto the paper ballots for 22 months after the election—especially because they were the subject of pending litigation. Her destruction of the ballots 12 months after the election, and in the midst of a lawsuit by Canova, is a federal crime which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
“What Brenda Snipes did, they should be ashamed of themselves,” Canova says. “They should be apologizing and they’re not doing any of that. They’re doubling down,” he says, referring to Snipes’ attempt to get the judge who ruled against her to recuse himself from the case.
But despite the judge’s ruling, Snipes has not been convicted of a crime. Instead, her office has simply been ordered to pay Canova’s legal fees while Governor Rick Scott has ordered that Snipes’ office be monitored during the next election.
At the same time that Snipes’ office was facing legal challenges from Canova, they were also being sued by cannabis legalization advocacy group NORML after voters reported receiving ballots without the 2016 medical marijuana question on them.
The issue was first flagged by Anne Sallee, a former city official in Oakland Park. Sallee claims that when she called Snipes’ office, the staff dismissed her complaints. “Oh, no, you’re mistaken. It’s there,” Sallee recalled one staffer saying, according to a Sun-Sentinel report.
“When you’re dealing with this much paper and this many people, we may have made a mistake. But I haven’t heard a lot of people saying ‘I don’t have it either,’” Snipes told the Sun-Sentinel.
This sort of suspicious behavior has plagued Broward County for years. In the NORML case, Snipes’ office was cleared of wrongdoing, having contacted voters who had received faulty ballots to correct the issue. But when an attempt to legalize medical marijuana in 2014 fell just a few percentage points short of the 60 percent it needed to pass, John Morgan, a major funder of both ballot initiatives, told Politico, “I don’t believe in accidents.”
Wasserman Schultz’s history with weed is also dubious. Critics have pointed out that many of her major donors are from the liquor industry, though ironically John Morgan had also been a major donor until the two had a falling out.
In 2015, Politico reported on emails from Wasserman Schultz offering to support his medical marijuana ballot initiative if he would stop publicly criticizing her.
To date, her most progressive move toward drug reform came in 2016 when she voted in favor of an amendment allowing veterans to access their state medical marijuana programs after voting against that same veterans amendment in 2014.
“I don’t oppose the use of medical marijuana. I just don’t think we should legalize more mind-altering substances if we want to make it less likely that people travel down the path toward using drugs,” Schultz told the New York Times in 2016. “We have had a resurgence of drug use instead of a decline. There is a huge heroin epidemic.”
By contrast, as a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, Canova advocated for the decriminalization of cannabis, supported the medicinal marijuana referendums and gained the endorsement of NORML in his last run for office.
“I’ve said many times that we should not be putting people in prison for using the same drugs that the last three American presidents have used,” he says.
As a professor in New Mexico, he worked with then-Republican governor and 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson to push a proposal to overturn the state law which prevented nonviolent drug offenders from voting.
Canova calls his fight with the Democratic Party over the past two years, “an education in election integrity.” When he attended a Democratic Party luncheon in the spring, he claims he wasn’t allowed to speak. The reason, he says, was that he hadn’t brought a cake and that Wasserman Schultz had.
Two weeks later, on April 3rd, Canova decided to leave the Democrats behind and run as an independent. He’s counting on the support of a younger generation that feels just as betrayed by the current system as he does.
“It’s not enough to just end the war on drugs,” Canova says. “This is a generation that has gotten the short end of the stick for a long time. People with advanced degrees are driving Ubers—I know some of them—this is year 10 of a great depression for most Americans.”
Wasserman Schultz did not respond to Herb’s requests for comment.