Ten candidates vying to lead the Democratic National Committee into the “future” will gather Saturday in Detroit, where they’ll outline their plans to reshape the party following a string of crushing electoral losses.
It was supposed to be 11 candidates. Vincent Tolliver, a former congressional candidate from Arkansas, was booted from the DNC Future Forum this week after he reportedly criticized the Muslim faith of a competitor, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Detroit native who now represents Minneapolis and parts of its suburbs in Minnesota.
“The Democratic Party welcomes all Americans from all backgrounds. What we do not welcome is people discriminating against others based on who they are or how they worship,” interim chair Donna Brazile said in a statement provided to The Detroit News.
Tolliver reportedly told The Hill newspaper that DNC voters should not back Ellison because “Muslims discriminate against gays.” Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has described himself as a “tireless advocate” for equality and campaigned against a proposed Minnesota gay marriage ban in 2012.
Saturday’s forum, scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Wayne State University Community Arts Theater, is a chance for party loyalists and activists to hear directly from candidates seeking to fill the positions of chair, vice chairs and other offices of the Democratic National Committee. The event will also be streamed online at Democrats.org.
Ellison is a top contender for the chair post, along with former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez of Maryland.
Other candidates include New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, South Carolina Chair Jaime Harrison, Idaho state party executive director Sally Boynton and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Former Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned from the post in late July after WikiLeaks published a series of emails suggesting DNC staffers had inappropriately aided eventual presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in her primary battle against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Clinton lost the general election to President Donald Trump, who scored a narrow and surprising victory in Michigan en route to his Electoral College victory. Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988.
The forum lets Democrats hear what candidates “have to say about rebuilding the party and winning back power in both Washington and state capitols across the country,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon.
“I think there’s an emerging consensus that we’ve got to get back to basics, a kind of grassroots block-to-block organizing, not just during a campaign seasons, but during the off years to start reconnecting with voters.”
Dillon, who has endorsed Ellison in the race, is expected to offer introductory remarks during an afternoon session that will include forums with candidates for chair and other party positions.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is also expected to speak during a morning session, along with Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece and United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones.
The Detroit candidate forum is the third of four similar events planned by the DNC. A final forum is scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11 in Baltimore.