A slew of leaked emails was the last straw for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who announced Sunday afternoon her resignation as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee effective later this week.
But for the Florida congresswoman, her dramatic exit was a long time coming.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 2004, Wasserman Schultz, 49, began her tenure as head of the DNC in 2011. Fellow Democrats expected the congresswoman – who came up through local Florida politics with stints in the state House and Senate – to be a sharp communicator and defender of the national party, with a high-profile presence on television.
Yet complaints arose about her effectiveness as a public spokesperson, as well as her delivery on the fundraising front. She struggled to raise the kind of cash that national party leaders had hoped for, in part because of an outside group set up by President Barack Obama – Organizing for Action – that diverted resources away from the DNC fundraising machine.
With some fellow Democrats already growing frustrated with Wasserman Schultz’s performance, it came under even more scrutiny during the 2016 primary season as supporters of Bernie Sanders accused the chairwoman of being partial to Hillary Clinton.
Among other things, the Sanders campaign took issue with the DNC’s scheduling of the Clinton-Sanders debates, saying the committee was purposely choosing times where viewership would be lower.
The tensions reached fever pitch in May, when Wasserman Schultz openly criticized the Vermont senator’s response to a chaotic scene involving Sanders supporters in Nevada and even compared the situation to a “Trump rally.”
The constant controversies led many in the party to believe that Wasserman Schultz had become more of a distraction than an effective leader of the party. The breaking point came over the weekend, when leaked DNC emails showed that committee staffers had deliberately tried to sabotage Sanders’ campaign, sparking fresh uproar and calls for Wasserman Schultz to resign.
Her exit, coming after Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night, still isn’t coming soon enough for some critics. Late Sunday, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported ongoing discussions regarding allowing Wasserman Schultz speaking time Monday.
Major Democratic donor John Morgan, who has been outspoken in his criticism of Wasserman Schultz, said he was shocked that the congresswoman was insisting on speaking to delegates this week.
“She reached this position and couldn’t help herself,” Morgan said. “And she still wants to speak! She doesn’t get it. Politically tone deaf.”
According to sources, Wasserman Schultz tried to cling to her position and ride out the controversy. But she found little support from her colleagues on Capitol Hill, with both top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid refusing to come to her rescue.
With the Democratic National Convention about to get underway in Philadelphia, there was widespread belief that it would be best for Wasserman Schultz to exit swiftly in order to help the party move on as fast as possible from the unflattering distraction.
“I know first hand how hard it is being the chair of a national party,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “But when you rig a system and you spread emails around with each other and senior staff in that manner, I think this kind of outcome is inevitable. There was no way out and I think, obviously, the end has come and I don’t think there was any other outcome that was forseeable.”
But even after Wasserman Schultz’ departure, the DNC is likely to face an uphill battle as it tries to convince skeptics that it can be impartial in future elections.
“The DNC has to keep an air – not only air – a position of impartiality,” said Dick Harpootlian, a Sanders supporter and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “After this election, assuming Hillary wins the election, they need to revisit the role of the DNC.”
Wasserman Schultz will still remain a superdelegate thorough her position as a member of Congress.
Both Obama and Clinton released gracious statements, referring to Wasserman Schultz as a “friend.”
“For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back,” Obama said. “Michelle and I are grateful for her efforts, we know she will continue to serve our country as a member of Congress from Florida and she will always be our dear friend.”