Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)

U.S. Representative (since January 2005); Chairwoman, Democratic National Committe (since April 2011)

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Why She Matters

Wasserman Schultz is one of the youngest, fastest-rising House Democrats. Thanks to her intelligence and ambition — not to mention prodigious fundraising abilities — Wasserman Schultz has quickly climbed the leadership ladder, landing the position of House Democratic chief deputy whip during the 111th Congress and the chairmanship of the Legislative Branch subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in only her second term (she was eliminated from the panel as ratios shrank under GOP control in the 112th Congress).

And as former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine resigned his chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in April 2011 to make the 2012 Senate race, the Floridian was picked by President Obama to become the second woman to serve as DNC chair, a critical role as the president proceeds in his 2012 reelection campaign.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Florida State Senator (2000 to 2004); Florida State Representative (1992 to 2000); Legislative Aide (1989 to 1992)
  • Birthday: Sept. 27, 1966
  • Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
  • Alma Mater: University of Florida, B.A. 1988, M.A. 1990
  • Spouse: Steve Schultz
  • Religion: Jewish
  • Committees: House Judiciary ; House Budget
  • DC Office: 118 Cannon House Office Building, Washington DC, 20510, 202-225-7931

Path to Power

Wasserman Schultz grew up on Long Island where she was a frequent loser of student council races. In 1984 she began college at the University of Florida, where she earned a B.A. in 1988, and an M.A. in 1990, both in political science. After graduation she worked as an aide to Florida state Rep. Peter Deutsch (D), an early political mentor whose state House seat she won in 1992.

At the age of 26, Wasserman Schultz was the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida House where she served for eight years, two as the minority leader. She subsequently served for four years as a state senator. During her time in the state legislature, Wasserman Schultz passed significant legislation that increased insurance coverage for women's health care, raised funding for public education, outlawed sex trafficking and established life-saving regulations on private swimming pools.

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The Issues

In her first term in the House, Wasserman Schultz grabbed the national media spotlight during the debate over critically-injured Florida patient Terri Schiavo. She fiercely opposed President George W. Bush and House Republicans by arguing that Congress would set a dangerous precedent if it intervened in the Schiavo case.

An early legislative accomplishment was the designation of the month of May as Jewish American Heritage Month, a measure the House passed unanimously.

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The Network

Months before the 2004 Democratic primary in her first House race, Wasserman Schultz gained the support of then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and said she would do everything possible to see Pelosi named House speaker. Pelosi has praised Wasserman Schultz's intelligence and diligence.

Once in the House, Wasserman Schultz's rapid rise is attributable in part to the positive impression she made on then-Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who tapped her as a chief deputy whip. And she owed her Appropriations "cardinal" position to her good relationship with then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.).

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Additional Resources

  1. Kessler, E.J. "Florida Democrat Blazing Her Own Trail on Capitol Hill," The Forward, March 4, 2005.
  2. Toeplitz, Shira and Josh Kurtz. "Wasserman Schultz to Head Incumbent Effort," Roll Call, Dec. 9, 2008
  3. Rep. Wasserman Schultz's official website.
  4. Reinhard, Beth, "Young congresswoman making her mark in Washington, D.C." The Miami Herald, Oct. 23, 2005.
  5. Rep. Wasserman Schultz's official website.
  6. Goldsmith, Brian, "Dem Rep.: Obama Right On The Surge" (interview with Wasserman Schultz), CBS News online, July 28, 2008.
  7. All biographical information taken from National Journal's Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition, and Rep. Wasserman Schultz's official website.
  8. O'Conner, Patrick, "Who's the next Rahm?" Politico, March 25, 2009.
  9. Washington Post Votes Database
  10. Newton-Small, Jay, "The Hotshots: 5 Democrats to Watch; The Mother of Three: Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Time, Aug. 21, 2008.
  11. Clark, Leslie, "Cancer advocates slam congresswoman's cancer-awareness bill," McClatchy Newspapers, April 10, 2009.
  12. Harwood, John, "Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz On Being Clinton Super-D," CNN.com, April 4, 2008.
  13. Almanac of American Politics.
  14. O'Conner, Patrick, "Who's the next Rahm?" Politico, March 25, 2009.
  15. O'Connor, Patrick, "Wasserman Schultz to give DCCC $100,000," The Hill, June 15, 2004.
  16. Clark, Leslie, "Broward U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reveals cancer battle," The Miami Herald, March 22, 2009.
  17. Newton-Small, Jay, "The Hotshots: 5 Democrats to Watch; The Mother of Three: Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Time, Aug. 21, 2008.
  18. Goldsmith, Brian, "Dem Rep.: Obama Right On The Surge" (interview with Wasserman Schultz), CBS News online, July 28, 2008.