Harry Reid Backs Rep. Keith Ellison for DNC Chair, Cites Need for 'New Thinking'

Reid cites the need for 'new thinking' in the Democratic Party

ByABC News
November 13, 2016, 1:19 PM

— -- Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has joined some other party leaders in throwing his support behind Rep. Keith Ellison to become the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, saying the Minnesota congressman would bring "new thinking and a fresh start."

"My friend Keith Ellison is a terrific leader and a strong progressive who knows how to get things done. Now is the time for new thinking and a fresh start at the DNC. Now is the time for Keith," Reid said in a statement issued by his communications director.

Ellison of Minnesota has yet to throw his hat in the ring for election as chair of the party committee. But he said today on ABC News' "This Week" that he will announce 'real soon' whether he will run for the post.

Reid's endorsement follows Ellison's winning the backing of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is slated to take over as the Senate's Democratic leader when Reid retires at the end of the year.

"Without a Democratic White House, Schumer’s view is the DNC is where grassroots organizing in sync with legislative battles should be organized,” Schumer spokesperson Matt House told ABC News on Friday.

Ellison was elected to Congress in 2006 and gained increased visibility during the 2016 election in part through his appearances on Sunday morning talk shows like "This Week," where he foresaw long before many pundits that Trump could become the GOP presidential nominee.

The Minnesota representative also became just the second member of Congress to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, a race the Vermont senator ultimately lost to Clinton. Ellison remains popular among Sanders' still-vocal supporters.

Sanders has endorsed Ellison for DNC chair and launched a petition in support of his candidacy on his website.

PHOTO: Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders speak during a campaign event in Dearborn, Michigan, March 7, 2016.
Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders speak during a campaign event in Dearborn, Michigan, March 7, 2016.

The support of both Reid and Schumer for Ellison potentially signals a change in direction for a party that appears severely bruised in the wake of Nov. 8th's election upset. Reid and Schumer had both endorsed Clinton in the Democratic Primary, as had with an overwhelming majority of party leaders.

The Democratic National Committee is now headed by Acting Chair Donna Brazile, who stepped in just before the party convention in July when then-Chair Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of leaked emails showing some DNC staffers favoring Clinton over Sanders in the primary.

More recently, other leaked emails posted by WikiLeaks appeared to show that Brazile too may have helped the Clinton campaign when she was active with the party committee but before she was acting chair.

Besides Ellison, other possible candidates for DNC chair include former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean who announced on Twitter that he was throwing his hat in the ring to take the job again. Dean held the post from 2005-2006 and employed what he called a “50-state” strategy that attempted to put even traditionally GOP-leaning congressional seats into contention. Democrats took control of Congress during his term.

But Dean's popularity with the party's progressive base has waned. In March, he drew criticism from some activists for his advocacy of the controversial superdelegate system used during Democratic Party primaries.

"Super delegates don't "represent people;" I'm not elected by anyone. I'll do what I think is right for the country," Dean tweeted then.

In addition to Dean, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a former presidential contender, has also expressed interest in becoming DNC chair.

According to the emails posted on Wikileaks this month, many of Clinton’s top advisers seemed to like former Michigan Governor Jen Granholm for the job of DNC Chair. Other names floated include New Hampshire Party Chair Ray Buckley and South Carolina Party Chair Jamie Harrison.

ABC News' Miriam Khan, Morgan Winsor, and MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.

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