Progressive-Backed Rep. Keith Ellison Says Would Vacate Seat to Head DNC

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is in the running to be the next DNC chair, speaking in 2010. (Photo: Center for American Progress/flickr/cc)

Progressive-Backed Rep. Keith Ellison Says Would Vacate Seat to Head DNC

'The Democratic Party must be the party that delivers for working people,' Ellison says

Saying the Democratic Party needs a leader making a "full-time commitment," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told news outlets Wednesday that he would leave his congressional seat if he wins the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The 53-year-old Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair formally announced his candidacy for DNC chair last month, days after easily winning his sixth term.

Just ahead of that announcement, Ellison said, "the most important criteria for a DNC chair is going to be vision [...] and the ability to mobilize and inspire people at the grassroots."

In his new statement, Ellison, who can count Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) among his progressive backers, said that "the Democratic Party must be the party that delivers for working people. We can do that by meeting folks where they are, looking them in the eye, treating them with respect, and working to solve their problems. For me, that means a chair with only one full-time commitment."

"Serving my neighbors in Congress and fighting for them has been the best job I've ever had," he said. "Whether it was for immigration reform, workers' rights, gender equity, or social justice, we stood side by side so that every person in America ... is treated with respect and given every opportunity to succeed. Until the DNC chair election, I plan to continue doing just that," he added.

He would "be 'all-in' to meet the challenge" the position poses, he said, adding, "In order to further their commitment and maximize my effectiveness, I have decided to resign as a member of Congress if I win the election for DNC chair."

In making that promise, Ellison eliminates what some deemed a "hurdle" for winning the race.

With former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean having dropped out of the running, Ellison so far faces just two other candidates--New Hampshire chairman Raymond Buckley and South Carolina chairman Jaime Harrison--in "hoping to lead the Democrats as they undergo a post-election reckoning," as Common Dreamswrote.

Since announcing his run, Ellison has been the target of a smear campaign which Glenn Greenwald described as "deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable."

At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party's most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel--the same smears virtually any critic of the Israeli government reflexively encounters, rendered far worse if the critic is a prominent American Muslim.

Nurses union National Nurses United (NNU) denounced the attacks as "symbolic of McCarthy-era politics that should have no place in American politics," with NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro saying, "It is precisely because his candidacy represents a break with neoliberal policies that have too often characterized the Democratic Party establishment that we are seeing some of the disgraceful attacks now surfacing on Keith and his background."

DNC voting members will choose their next chair in February, and who they choose, independent writer Jake Johnson argued at Common Dreams last month, "will indicate the direction in which the party will move in the coming months, even years."

As "a genuine populist with an ambitious, progressive vision for the future," Ellison, he wrote, "would be a step in the right direction."

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