The Pipe Bomb Scare To The Massacre At The Tree of Life L’Simchah Synagogue


By Tim Canova | October 31, 2018

Several nights ago, I attended a memorial service for our brothers and sisters who were terrorized and massacred at the Tree of Life L’Simchah Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The service was at the Temple Beth El in Hollywood, Florida. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith leaders all spoke about the scourge and virus of anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry and racism. They spoke about the need to remember our common humanity.

We were also reminded that in Judaism, action is prayer. We must all take an active part in repairing the ugly divides in our country. It’s not enough to say prayers, we must also act in the spirit of freedom, justice, inclusion, and peace. Our campaign is an exercise in putting our hopes, ideals and prayers into action.

For days, my thoughts have been with the victims and congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, as they have been with the families of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. We must act to end all this hatred, to make sure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of sick people, and to provide mentoring and mental health care to those in need.

At the memorial service at Temple Beth El, we were told that Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has a huge security detail, is suffering and traumatized by the recent pipe bomb scare, that she and her family, friends, and staff are nervous and frightened. My heart goes out to all who are suffering at this time, including my opponent and her staff and loved ones.

I certainly do not want to cause Debbie any traumatic stress and mental anguish by continuing to press her for a debate. For weeks, I did press for a debate. In late August, the day after the Florida primary, once the parties had nominated their candidates, I wrote to all of my opponents suggesting two debates. Debbie never responded to me, much like two years ago.

More recently, Broward College invited all of us to debate. Again, I accepted without preconditions and Debbie never responded. March for Our Lives then invited all of us to a Town Hall. I accepted without preconditions. Once again, Debbie never responded.

Last week, it was reported that pipe bombs were mailed to several Democratic Party leaders, all apparently with Debbie’s office as the return address.

The  day after the pipe bomb scare, Debbie attended a debate between Florida governor candidates at Broward College. The following evening was to be our own Broward College debate, but it was cancelled in large part due to Debbie’s refusal to accept or even respond to the invitation.

I was initially disappointed that Debbie was again dodging debates, not because I need a debate to win this election – it’s now clear that I do not – but because of what it says about the moribund condition of our democracy. The South Florida press and news media and the Democrat and Republican parties are all content to keep the voters of Florida’s 23rd congressional district as much in the dark about the candidates and the issues as possible. Perhaps that’s the way their corporate donors and advertisers want it. Even the League of Women Voters could not be bothered. Yet, for anyone who cares to look, they will see the differences between the candidates in my race. It’s the difference between authoritarian rule by elites versus a more inclusive and open democracy.

One occupational hazard of being a law professor is a certain natural enthusiasm for the give and take of public discussions and spirited debates. Within the academy, we say that it’s okay to hate the message, but not the messenger, to disagree without being disagreeable. I believe what’s lacking in our politics today is an ability to speak with our opponents about the issues with civility. Instead, politics are played out through smears and counterattacks that are often choreographed by expensive consultants and funded by corporate lobbyists. And it’s the tightly closed politics of fear and smear, and dodging of debates, that prevents reasoned discourse and fuels the growing partisanship, hatred, and incitement to violence.

I’m sorry to hear of Debbie’s anguish. Clearly, she’s been under tremendous strain for quite some time, unfortunately much of it of her own making. She’s been in politics her entire adult life, which does not seem either easy or normal. Should Debbie lose on Election Day, I hope she will have time to rest, recover and reflect outside of the public eye.

When elected, I will remain committed to bridging the partisan divides in our country and to facilitating constructive dialogue, especially with those who disagree with me. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad to be running as an independent. I’m free of the pressures to remain loyal to the fear and smear campaigns of a party. I’m free to reason and find common ground with fellow citizens across the political spectrum.

Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and address the issues that have divided Americans for too long and prevented solutions to the rising tide of gun violence, anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry, and racism.

Now is the time to unite for change in Florida’s 23rd congressional district.


Tim Canova