Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Monday formally launched his bid to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, offering a show of strength by simultaneously releasing the endorsements of 40 elected officials, state party chairmen and labor leaders.
“Democrats win when we harness the power of everyday people and fight for the issues they care about,” Ellison said in a statement. “It is not enough for Democrats to ask for voters' support every two years. We must be with them through every lost paycheck, every tuition hike, and every time they are the victim of a hate crime. When voters know what Democrats stand for, we can improve the lives of all Americans.”
Ellison’s name emerged as a likely candidate almost immediately after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss last week to Republican President-elect Donald Trump.
It was clear from the outset that he was a favorite for the position among liberal advocacy groups and lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), the runner-up in this year's Democratic presidential primaries.
But Ellison has also already won the backing of some establishment party figures, including outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), who announced his support on Sunday, and Reid’s expected successor, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
On Monday, Ellison’s list of endorsers also included Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).
In his statement, Ellison said that Democrats “did not motivate enough people to the ballot box” on Tuesday.
“We must champion the challenges of working families and give voters a reason to show up at the polls in 2018 and beyond,” he said. “We must build a bench not just for federal candidates, but for state and local candidates across the nation.”
The next chairman is scheduled to be picked early next year by DNC members across the country, who may or may not take their cue from elected officials. Besides Ellison, several other names have emerged as possible successors to interim chairwoman Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic operative who stepped in after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) announced her resignation in July.
Among them is Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor, who is seeking to return to a job he held from 2005 to 2009. Dean has argued that the party needs a full-time chairman with Trump about to step into the White House.
“You cannot do this job if it’s not full time. Period,” Dean said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Noting his experience leading the DNC, Dean added: “This is not something I have to do. This is not something I’m going to push people out of the way for.”
Wasserman Schultz, who continued to serve in Congress during her DNC tenure, was driven from the position after a trove of hacked emails showed favoritism among DNC staff for Clinton over Sanders during the Democratic primaries.
Others who have said they are considering bids for DNC chairman include former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison and the DNC’s national finance chairman, Henry Muñoz III. In all, more than a dozen names have already been floated.
Ellison, first elected to Congress in 2006, represents a district that includes Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs. A former Minnesota state lawmaker, he was the first Muslim elected to Congress — a fact his boosters have said would send a strong signal about the Democratic Party’s commitment to diversity during a Trump presidency.
Among his legislative accomplishments was authoring a provision of the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights in 2009 which prevents the practice of “universal default,” which allowed lenders to increase the interest rates charged to customers if they had late payments with another lender.
A Detroit native, Ellison worked as a criminal defense lawyer before joining Congress.