Since the 2016 primary, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been fighting off progressive challengers — and 2020 is no different.
Lawyer Jen Perelman is running against Wasserman Schultz in the August 18 primary and hopes her grassroots campaign can propel her to a primary win in Florida's 23rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
But Perelman's campaign hit a snag earlier this month when she realized two websites that use her name — jenperelman.com and jenperelmanforcongress.com — had been purchased by someone else. The sites now forward to Wasserman Schultz's official House website.
"It looks like the domain names were acquired back in September, but I have no idea when they began forwarding to her page," Perelman tells New Times. "For all I know, that just started last week. Whoever it was who bought them hooked it up."
Perelman says her staffers traced the domain registration to Panama.
Although Perelman tweeted that someone from Wasserman Schultz's team was behind the domain registry, it isn't clear who purchased the websites. Wasserman Schultz's campaign did not respond to several emails from New Times about the matter.
Wasserman Schultz was the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 2011 to 2016. During that time, Democrats lost a staggering 1,000 seats across the U.S., according to a 2017 piece in The Intercept.
Despite the controversies that have dogged Wasserman Schultz over the past four years — from a ballot scandal to the email leak that led to her resignation as DNC chair — the American Hospital Association, the Broward Teachers Union, and many other Democratic institutions have endorsed her in this year's race, as have the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel.
The Sun-Sentinel's endorsement says her core ideals are virtually indistinguishable from Perelman's — a sentiment Perelman finds "ludicrous."
For starters, Perelman says, she opposes for-profit businesses operating in healthcare, public education, and corrections.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I think that representatives should serve their constituents, not their corporate donors," the challenger says. "Debbie takes money from profiteers in both the healthcare and criminal justice sectors."
Perelman says it has been difficult running a grassroots campaign against a powerful incumbent. So far, it's unclear whether there will be an opportunity for the two candidates to debate.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Perelman tells New Times. "Every single outlet except the Progressive Caucus is ignoring us or acting as if we don't exist. She knows that she can't win a real debate and she just wants to pretend that this isn't happening. Basically, we've been blackballed."
Since learning about the domain-name poaching, Perelman says, she has met with a lawyer to discuss her options. She hopes to get to the bottom of the matter soon.