TALLAHASSEE — After months of controversy about her role in the party’s presidential primaries, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday she will step down as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Wasserman Schultz’s resignation is effective after the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday in Philadelphia. The announcement came after the disclosure Friday by WikiLeaks of internal party emails that added new fuel to criticism that Wasserman Schultz aided ultimate nominee Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In a statement that splashed Sunday across national and state media websites, Wasserman Schultz said she would open and close the convention and address delegates about “the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”
“We have planned a great and unified convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” she said in the statement.
Luis Miranda, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said on Twitter that party Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic leader and operative, will serve as interim chair through the election.
Sanders, who is scheduled to speak Monday night at the convention, posted a statement on Twitter saying Wasserman Schultz had “made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party” by resigning.
“While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people,” Sanders said in the statement. “The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”
Clinton also issued a statement saying Wasserman Schultz will serve as “honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida and in other key states.”
Wasserman Schultz, who is from the Broward County city of Weston, has been a fixture in state Democratic politics for more than two decades and became chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in 2011.
She faces an Aug. 30 primary-election challenge for her congressional seat from Tim Canova, who has been backed by Sanders. Clinton indicated in her statement that she will try to help Wasserman Schultz fend off the challenge in Congressional District 23.
“I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid — because as president, I will need fighters like Debbie in Congress who are ready on day one to get to work for the American people,” Clinton said in the statement.