Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida will succeed Tim Kaine as chair of the Democratic National Committee, placing a rising female lawmaker from a key swing state into one of the most prominent surrogate roles for the Obama reelection campaign.
Currently a party vice chair, Wasserman Schultz, 44, was the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from Florida, and she is serving her fourth term representing the state’s 20th Congressional District. She will continue to serve in the House.
Vice President Joe Biden announced the selection in an email to Democratic supporters Tuesday evening, praising “her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit, and her ability to overcome adversity.”
“President Obama expressed great admiration for her as a leader, and he was honored that she accepted this important challenge on behalf of the Democratic Party,” Biden wrote. “No one should have any doubt that Debbie will work hard to strengthen our party and our country.”
Wasserman Schultz, who has had breast cancer, has played a prominent role in Democratic messaging, particularly on healthcare. In her new role she will become a fixture on the campaign trail as the party’s chief advocate, something that will be especially important heading into the 2012 campaign as President Obama tries to keep his focus on governing.
A proven fundraiser, Wasserman Schultz also will be expected to help the party build what is sure to be an unprecedented war chest for a national campaign.
Obama ultimately signed off on the choice, which was said to be between Wasserman Schultz and Ted Strickland, the former Ohio governor, who was unseated in 2010 after one term.
Kaine, appointed by Obama just before his 2009 inauguration, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down as chair to run for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2012.