Rep. Ellison gets Michigan backing for DNC leader

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Detroit native Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minneapolis, is garnering strong support from Michigan’s delegation and others for his run to chair the Democratic National Committee.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, announced his candidacy Monday by saying it’s time to begin rebuilding the Democratic Party following the surprise election last week of President-elect Donald Trump.

“This election cycle, we did not motivate enough people to the ballot box. 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 in his declaring his candidacy.

“We must build a bench not just for federal candidates, but for state and local candidates across the nation.”

In Michigan, Democratic U.S. Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit and Dan Kildee of D-Flint Township have endorsed Ellison for the DNC post.

“He is a visionary, a fighter, and he is needed now more than ever as we approach the next four years with Republicans controlling every branch of government,” Conyers said in a statement.

“Keith Ellison deserves to be at the helm, steering us forward, as our party fights to protect our core values and enhance the quality of life for every American, not just a select few.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is expected to be the next Senate minority leader, have thrown their support behind Ellison.

Ellison called for a “robust” party organization in each state that prioritizes voter relationships and creates effective field operations “and a culture of collaboration between candidates at every level.”

Ellison, 53, is among a number of candidates for the DNC post, which is held on an interim basis by Donna Brazile since the resignation of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida in July. Others considering the position include former DNC Chair Howard Dean, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, among others.

If selected for the post, Ellison would keep his seat in Congress, spokesman Brett Morrow said Tuesday.

Ellison grew up in Detroit and graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in 1981 and Wayne State University in 1986. His parents, brothers and nieces and nephews still live in Michigan, where he visited them last weekend, Morrow said.

Ellison moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, from which he graduated in 1990. He practiced law for several years before his election to the Minnesota state House of Representatives in 2003.

In 2006, Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress. For several years, Ellison has helped lead the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House. He also serves on the Committee on Financial Services.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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