Perez: Ellison is ‘the face of the Democratic Party’

Published 10:14 am Monday, February 27, 2017

By Allison Sherry

Minneapolis Star Tribune

ATLANTA — Rep. Keith Ellison was willing to give up his U.S. House seat to become the Democratic Party’s national leader — a political gamble that the six-term congressman lost over the weekend.

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Ellison fell short of the votes needed to run the Democratic National Committee in a contest here Saturday. The job went to former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who immediately appointed Ellison as his deputy.

In an interview Sunday, Perez said he had big plans for Ellison as his deputy, including letting him run point on the party’s grass-roots organizing efforts.

Perez also noted he wanted to make Ellison the “face of the Democratic Party.”

While serving as DNC deputy, Ellison will keep his Fifth Congressional District seat. This forces Ellison into a potentially awkward position in his home district of Minneapolis, where he will have to rebuild a local platform and repledge to serve his loyal constituents, who have re-elected him to Congress six times.

“If anything, he’s helped himself,” said state Sen. Scott Dibble, who lives in Ellison’s district and was mulling a run for his seat if Ellison had resigned. “His work has always been about energizing folks and energizing people at the grass roots. That’s why people support him so strongly in this district.”

He noted that there was a welcome home party for Ellison at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sunday.

Ellison first got into the Democratic National Committee race four days after President Trump was elected in November. At first, Ellison said he could simultaneously be a congressman and chief of the Democratic Party. He argued that he would have a robust team and he could continue voting and serving his roughly 600,000 constituents on Capitol Hill while also steering the Democratic Party nationally.