Ellison, a five-term congressman from Minnesota, announced his campaign to lead the Democratic Party on Monday. In a statement, circulated by an NBC News reporter on Twitter, Ellison said the Democrats must begin to rebuild immediately in the wake of devastating losses during the 2016 election.
“Democrats win when we harness the power of everyday people and fight for the issues they care about,” the statement read. “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.”
Sanders endorsed Ellison as a DNC chair candidate late last week.
The Democratic Party met few of its goals in 2016, the largest upset being former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump. Ellison’s decision to throw his hat in the ring is widely viewed as an attempt by the party’s progressive elements to seize control from the centrists who overwhelmingly supported Clinton over Sanders during the Democratic primary.
Ellison received the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this weekend: “My friend Keith Ellison is a terrific leader and a strong progressive who knows how to get things done,” Reid said in a statement published by the Huffington Post. “Now is the time for new thinking and a fresh start at the DNC. Now is the time for Keith.”
Ellison will face off against Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a former DNC chair and 2004 presidential candidate, and potentially against former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate. A slew of other potential candidates have been mentioned as well, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez, DNC Vice Chiarman Raymond Buckley, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback, Politico has reported.
Dean, who left office in 2004 to run for president but lost in the primary to John Kerry, praised Ellison, while saying he takes issue with a sitting congressman also becoming party chair. (Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ousted this summer following leaked emails published by WikiLeaks that showed coordination between the DNC and the Clinton campaign, ran the DNC for five years while serving in Congress.)
“Look, I like Keith Ellison a lot. He's a very good guy,” Dean told MSNBC in an interview. “There's one problem. You cannot do this job and sit in a political office at the same time. It's not possible.”