Howard Dean Drops Out of DNC Chairman Race

Governor Howard Dean (D-Vt.) released this video for the Association of State Democratic Chairs meeting happening in Denver this weekend.

In addition to announcing his withdrawal from the race, he did not endorse another candidate and encouraged that whoever gets elected to the post take the job as a full-time position – a seeming reference to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) who is a sitting member of Congress.  Based on the number of endorsements he has accumulated, Ellison remains the front-runner in the race, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. The winner has to receive the votes of at least 224 out of the 447 voting members of the Democratic National Committee.

Dean’s withdrawal leaves three confirmed candidates in the race (Ellison, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison) which creates some interesting dynamics.

  • Two of the candidates (Ellison and Harrison) are African American. The other (Buckley) is white and openly gay. All three represent constituencies in the Democratic coalition.
  • Two of the candidates (Buckley and Harrison) represent the second and third states in the existing order of the presidential primaries. In both their cases it would raise legitimate questions about whether or not they would be willing to reform or significantly alter the primary calendar and nominating process, lest their home state lose power and influence over the process.
  • Two of the candidates (Buckley and Ellison) are over the age of 50.  Harrison is in his early 40s. This could create a generational divide in terms of outlook for the party’s future, priorities, values, etc. Harrison has said that if he is elected chairman, he will create a Vice Chair position to be filled by someone under the age of 35. Given that Hillary Clinton underperformed with millennials in the recent election, Harrison’s youth could be an asset.
  • Each of them come from states with different political leanings. Ellison represents an urban district in a solidly blue state (Minnesota). Buckley leads the party in a swing state with a track record of voting for both parties in federal, state, and local races (New Hampshire). Harrison leads the party in a solidly red state where Democrats have not been very successful in recent years (South Carolina).
  • Two of the candidates (Buckley and Ellison) come from states with predominantly white populations. Only Harrison comes from a state with a significant minority population – African Americans account for nearly 28 percent of South Carolina’s population according to the most recent census data. Ellison comes from and represents the Upper Midwest – the region of the country that determined the election. This could be an asset for him in making his argument.
  • All three candidates come from small states population-wise, according to the most recent census data. (Minnesota – 5.5 million, 10 electoral votes; South Carolina – 4.9 million, 9 electoral votes; New Hampshire – 1.3 million, 4 electoral votes)
  • Two of the candidates (Buckley and Harrison) are sitting state party chairmen. If either of them were elected, he would be a full-time DNC chairman.  Of those two, Buckley and his state party produced the best results in the recent election, delivering New Hampshire for the presidential and Senate races.  Ellison said he might be open to leaving his congressional seat to do the DNC chairman job full-time. The fact that Buckley and Harrison have had to run their state parties and have lived and operated outside of Washington D.C. could be an asset in making their case for why they can best lead and reform the party, as opposed to a sitting member of Congress who has lived and worked in the capital for years. The party’s recent experience with Debbie Wasserman Schultz could also make it averse to choosing another member of Congress as DNC chairman.

There is still the possibility of other candidates jumping in the race, particularly Ilyse Hogue (president of NARAL Pro-Choice America) and Stephanie Schriock (president of Emily’s List).

Author: David de Sola

Editor/Publisher Political Wilderness

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