WASHINGTON (AP) — Five years ago, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was put in charge of the Democratic National Committee to usher in a new era for the party. Now, Wasserman Schultz is on her way out, after the publication of emails that suggest Democratic officials favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the nominating contests.
The scandal is rocking the party on the eve of their convention, and the fall is a stunning one for the tough-talking Florida representative who became the first woman elected to chair the DNC. Two other women have served in the role but were appointed.
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On Sunday, Wasserman Schultz announced she would step down as DNC chairwoman at the end of the party's convention, after some of the 19,000 emails, presumably stolen from the DNC by hackers, were posted to the website Wikileaks.
To Sanders' supporters, the email scandal proved what they long suspected: The Democratic Party had become a clubby establishment that was resistant to change and reluctant to embrace a more progressive agenda.
For years though, it seemed, Wasserman Schultz was unstoppable.
At 26, she was the youngest woman elected to a seat in the Florida's House. Then came the Florida Senate, and in 2005, she was elected to the U.S. House to represent South Florida. It was there Wasserman Schultz earned her reputation as a workhorse and outspoken liberal willing to spar with Republicans on television.
By her mid-40s, Wasserman Schultz had survived breast cancer and was raising three kids — all the while serving in the House and raising millions for the Democratic Party.
By 2011, President Barack Obama recommended she take control of the DNC, even though she had backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary. Perhaps part of the calculation was that Wasserman Schultz represented South Florida, a Democrat-rich area of a critical swing state in the upcoming election. As a Jew and strong advocate for Israel, she also provided a bulwark for Obama against Republican efforts at the time to paint him as anti-Israel.
Wasserman Schultz was born in 1966 on Long Island, New York. According to her online biography, she graduated from the University of Florida. She married Steve Schultz and resides with her family in Weston, a Fort Lauderdale suburb.
Worth noting is whom Wasserman Schultz replaced at the DNC five years ago: Tim Kaine, who is now Clinton's running mate.
"As Chairman Kaine departs, new leadership must come on," Vice President Joe Biden wrote in 2011 to DNC members.
Wasserman Schultz was also considered a close friend of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded during a shooting rampage in Tucson. Wasserman Schultz was reportedly in Giffords' hospital room when she first woke up.
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