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Schumer throws his support behind Keith Ellison for DNC chairman

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) poses for a portrait during an interview with The Washington Post in October. (Gareth Smit for The Washington Post)

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is expected to be the incoming Senate minority leader, has thrown his support behind Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The backing provides a major boost to the expected candidacy of Ellison, who has the support of several liberal lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and an array of progressive advocacy groups.

Schumer spokesman Matt House said that Schumer and Ellison spoke Thursday and that Schumer has decided to support the Minnesota lawmaker, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Keith Ellison, Howard Dean offered as possible DNC chairs as Democrats seek to regroup

“Without a Democratic White House, Schumer’s view is that the DNC is where the grass-roots organizing in sync with legislative battles should be organized,” House said.

The choice of DNC chairman has quickly emerged as a proxy for the direction that Democrats want to see their party take in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss on Tuesday to Donald Trump.

Sanders and other liberals pushing Ellison argue that the DNC needs to shift its focus from raising money from well-heeled donors to building grass-roots enthusiasm for Democrats among working-class and middle-class Americans — including some of the voters who propelled Trump’s victories.

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who previously served as DNC chairman, announced on Twitter on Thursday that he is interested in returning to the job. Dean supported Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Ellison, who backed Sanders during his presidential run, said last night that he would make an announcement on Monday about whether he will seek the DNC chairmanship.

Speaking on a conference call with members of Democracy for America, Ellison described his vision of the role the next chairman should play, saying the party needs to focus on “relationship-based initiatives that put TV as a tool, not as a go-to; which puts econometric modeling, not allowing that kind of expensive stuff substitute for getting Dems together around a pot of chili and getting to know them every single place.”

“And I think we need a chair who’s going to go lead some door knocks around this country in the off year, in the off year, so people get to know them and get to feel like this is their party, this is the party of working men and women of this country,” Ellison added.

The next DNC chairman will succeed Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic activist who has been serving on an interim basis.