WASHINGTON — Hailed as the "fighter from South Florida," U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was unanimously elected Wednesday as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
The 44-year-old from Weston immediately assumed her duties, attacking Republicans for trying to turn back the health care law and their proposal to privatize Medicare.
"As Democrats," she said at the Fairfax hotel in Washington, "we know a little about 'yes we can,' but Republicans seem to be stuck on 'no we can't.' "
She also acknowledged the GOP would be heavily funded as it seeks to make additional gains in Congress and unseat President Barack Obama.
"On my watch we will not be outworked," Wasserman Schultz vowed.
Obama nominated her and called in after the vote. "I am absolutely positive she's the right person for the moment," he said, citing her energy and organizational skill.
Wasserman Schultz is a fierce partisan and a comfortable presence on television — requisite skills for the job. She is also a proven fundraiser, having served as an officer in Democratic congressional campaign efforts.
Her appeal to party activists lies also in her role as a mother (her three children were on hand for the vote) and breast cancer survivor.
"She understands the day in and day out rituals that working moms have to go through across the country," said Steve Powell, 47, a DNC member from Illinois.
He dismissed limited talk in Democratic circles that Wasserman Schultz would be stretched too thin with her many duties. She is keeping her congressional seat and rushed off to Capitol Hill to vote before a reception in her honor got under way at the hotel.
Wasserman Schultz used her acceptance speech to talk about her first run for office, at age 25, for the Florida House of Representatives.
"Now, I believed I was ready to serve, but the good ol' boys in my Democratic Club had other plans. They patted me on the head and told me that I was too young; that I needed to wait my turn," she said.
"Well, that just strengthened my resolve. I was determined to prove them wrong. So I spent every single day, rain or shine, knocking on the doors of my would-be constituents. Before that race was over, I had knocked on 25,000 doors."
She concluded, "That race taught me two things. First, there is no substitute for good, old-fashioned hard work. Second, don't take no for an answer."
Despite the celebration Wednesday, Democrats face many challenges heading into the election, none greater than the struggling economy. The health care law continues to gain mixed public reviews.
Party activists said Wasserman Schultz is the best person for the job.
"The Democratic party will be led well into the cycle," said Mitchell Berger, a prominent party fundraiser from South Florida. "She understands the nuts and bolts of politics."