WASHINGTON - Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to be approved as the new chair of the Democratic Party, becoming the first woman elected to head the party in nearly four decades, Politico is reporting.
The 44-year-old Florida congresswoman, selected by President Barack Obama to replace former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, is known as a sharp partisan with an outspoken style. Members of the Democratic National Committee are scheduled to convene at 3 p.m. in Washington to vote on her nomination.
“Debbie is going to be a great champion for our party and our President. For more than 20 years, she has stood out as a proven leader, doing all she can to protect Medicare for America’s seniors and create good jobs for Florida’s workers,” Donna Brazile, who has served as interim chair since Kaine stepped down April 5, wrote in an email to supporters.
“And guided by her experiences battling cancer, teaching at Broward Community College, and raising three young children, she understands the struggles Americans of every background confront each and every day,” Brazile added.
Democrats appear broadly enthusiastic about the selection of Wasserman Schultz, a four-term congresswoman who represents a strongly Democratic Miami-area district.
They cite her proven abilities as a fundraiser and spokeswoman for the party; her special appeal to women and Jewish voters; and her roots in a swing state that will be key to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
Wasserman Schultz plans to remain in Congress, where she serves on the budget and judiciary committees and is a chief deputy whip of the Democratic caucus, and seek reelection in 2012.
One House colleague, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), publicly wondered whether the workload would be too much for Wasserman Schultz. His comments were met with angry cries of sexism for the implication he was questioning her ability to juggle motherhood and career.
At a forum at The George Washington University in early April, Wasserman Schultz addressed such concerns, saying her array of responsibilities “definitely requires a careful, organizing balancing act.” But, she added, “I will never lose because I get outworked.”
A Long Island native, Wasserman Schultz began her political career in the Florida House of Representatives at the age of 26 — the youngest female legislator in the state’s history. She became the state’s first Jewish congresswoman when she was elected in 2004.
Wasserman Schultz and her husband, Steve Schultz, have three school-age children. The congresswoman is a close friend of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman injured in a mass shooting in Tucson in January.
She hasn’t always been an Obama loyalist: Wasserman Schultz was a national co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign. But she quickly came out as an aggressive campaigner for Obama after he secured the nomination.
Known for her fundraising prowess, Wasserman Schultz raised nearly $2 million for her 2010 reelection and at least $5 million more for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Once she becomes DNC chairwoman, she will no longer accept contributions from political action committees to her campaign fund, in keeping with the policy followed by the DNC and the Obama campaign.
The last woman elected by DNC members to lead the committee was Jean Westwood in 1972, though two others, including Brazile, have since served by appointment.