ATLANTA – South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison announced he was dropping out of the race for Democratic National Committee chairman and endorsing former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Harrison announced the decision on the first day of the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Atlanta, less than 24 hours after appearing on a televised candidates’ debate hosted by CNN and less than 48 hours before the election to pick the next chairman is scheduled to take place.
“In a former job, I whipped votes for House Democrats. I know what a path to victory looks like. Despite strong performances at the debate and DNC regional forums, the votes are simply not there for me to secure victory on Saturday,” Harrison wrote in an email to DNC members. “Tom Perez has brought integrity, passion, and tenacity to every job he’s ever had. I have had a front-row seat to these qualities in the many debates and forums we have participated in. These qualities are why Barack Obama and Joe Biden trusted him to spearhead an economic agenda that brought us out of the recession. They are why Eric Holder trusted him to enforce our civil rights and voting rights laws so that everyone is treated equally under the law and has access to the ballot box. And they are why I trust Tom to lead the Democratic turnaround as Chair of the DNC.”
“Every person who knows Jaime Harrison will say he is one of the smartest, most dedicated, and genuine leaders we know. Simply put, he’s one of a kind. Jaime’s commitment to the party is like no other and I’m proud to have his support as we both work together to invest in state parties, turnaround the DNC, and get back to winning,” Perez said in a statement. “If elected chair, I will work with Jaime and others who are running for chair to bring our party together because it will take every one of us to unite a party that is suffering from a crisis of confidence and relevance.”
Perez also announced today that he had received the endorsement of the entire Louisiana DNC delegation, as well as Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards. In a joint statement announcing the endorsement, they said, “Tom’s vision for the DNC and ours are the same — a DNC that competes in every ZIP code and empowers Democrats from the local to the federal level. For this reason and others, we proudly endorse Tom for DNC chair.”
According to a recent whip count of the DNC chairman race by the Associated Press, Perez leads Rep. Keith Ellison 205-153 out of 224 votes necessary to win the election. The count also calculated Harrison’s support at 27 votes. If the Associated Press’s calculations are correct, Harrison could possibly push Perez over the top, though the DNC members who have endorsed him are not bound to his decision to back Perez.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who endorsed Ellison early in the contest, sent out a letter to DNC members this afternoon – after Harrison’s announcement – reaffirming his support for Ellison and defending him on Israel:
Other high-profile surrogates for Perez and Ellison have gotten involved in the final days of the race, according to NBC News:
As NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald pointed out, Harrison’s exit makes South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg the default third party candidate who might emerge as a dark horse compromise alternative if neither Perez nor Ellison are able to secure the necessary votes to win the election after multiple rounds of voting. Buttigieg’s campaign received a major boost on Wednesday when it secured the endorsement of former DNC chairman Governor Howard Dean, who is well regarded within the party and had one its most successful tenures in recent times with victories in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Buttigieg and Dean will be hosting a lunch for DNC members tomorrow.