U.S. Rep. Ellison faces upcoming vote on his bid to become DNC chair

Keith Ellison
Keith Ellison

The Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting this weekend in Atlanta is poised to determine whether U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison will continue to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District or whether he will become the party’s national chairman.

Ellison announced his candidacy for the Democratic National Committee chair position about a week after the general election in November. The results of the election led to Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the U.S. presidency.

“Democrats win when we harness the power of everyday people and fight for the issues they care about,” Ellison said in a lengthy statement he released when he announced his candidacy. “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, no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation. To do that, we must begin the rebuilding process now.”

Last December, Ellison announced that he would resign his seat in Congress if he won the committee chair position.

“Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising,” Ellison said. “I will be ‘all-in’ to meet the challenge.”

He faces competition from several other candidates, including former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The winning candidate must receive at least 224 votes, a majority, from DNC members.

In his statement issued in November, Ellison said Democrats did not motivate enough people to vote for their candidates.

“We must champion the challenges of working families and give voters a reason to show up at the polls in 2018 and beyond,” Ellison said. “We must build a bench not just for federal candidates, but for state and local candidates across the nation.”

“We also need a robust party organization in every state that prioritizes voter relationships over everything else.”

He said the party must help state and local branches create effective field operations, maintain comprehensive voter files and establish a culture of collaboration between candidates at every level.

“Let’s put the voters first,” Ellison said.

He concluded by saying that if elected party chair, “I will work tirelessly to make the Democratic Party an organization that brings us together and advances an agenda that improves people’s lives.”

His statement included a long list of endorsements, including statements of support from U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Minneapolis mayor and DNC Vice Chair R.T. Rybak, Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin and many other political leaders.

For example, Sanders said, “It is time for the Democratic Party to make it clear that we will become a grassroots party which stands with the working families of this country and will fight for a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. That’s the kind of change Keith Ellison represents and why he must become the next chair of the Democratic Party.”

Rybak said, “More a community organization than a politician, Keith has used every campaign to protect every voter’s rights, expand our party’s base, include those left behind and elevate new leaders. That is exactly what the Democratic Party needs right now.”

After Ellison announced he would resign his seat in Congress if elected DNC chair, several potential candidates announced they would consider running in a special election to replace him in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Minnesota Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, and Frank Drake, the Republican candidate against Ellison in 2016, announced in December that they would consider running for Ellison’s seat if a special election becomes necessary.

Ellison won re-election to Congress last November with about 69 percent of the votes in a three-way race for the seat. Drake received about 22 percent of the votes while Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Dennis Schuller received about 8.5 percent.

Ellison originally won election to Congress in 2006 after serving in the Minnesota Legislature. His candidate announcement in November notes that he became the first Muslim elected to Congress. He has been co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus since 2010. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The 5th Congressional District includes all or parts of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Crystal, Edina, Fort Snelling, Fridley, Golden Valley, Hilltop, Hopkins, New Brighton, New Hope, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony Village, St. Louis Park and Spring Lake Park.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]