DNC Chair Race: Candidates Set to Debate in CNN Forum Before Election

Democratic National Committee officers Raymond Buckley, left, and Donna Brazile take part in the DNC's summer meeting, Friday, Aug. 20, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP/Jeff Roberson

Democratic candidates will take the stage at the CNN Center in Atlanta on Wednesday night to make a final appeal as to why they should become the next Democratic National Committee chair.

The event will reportedly air live on CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International, CNNgo, Westwood One Radio Network and on CNN Channel 116 on Sirius XM.

CNN said the debate will focus on the candidates’ “strategies for the 2018 midterm elections, rebuilding the Democratic Party and the DNC’s role under the Trump administration.”

According to CNN, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley dropped out of the race last week, taking the number of candidates down to six from seven. Buckley threw his support behind Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). In addition to Ellison, the other candidates are former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton-Brown; and television commentator Jehmu Greene.

“To receive an invitation to the debate, a person must be recognized by the DNC as a candidate for chair as outlined by its 2016 memo and must have appeared in at least three of the four DNC’s Future Forums held in Phoenix, Arizona; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland,” CNN wrote.

Although CNN did not officially announce which candidates will participate in Wednesday’s debate, Heavy.com reported:

The Phoenix Future Forum was attended by Keith Ellison, Tom Perez, Sally Boynton Brown, Ray Buckley, Pete Buttigieg, Jehmu Greene, and Jaime Harrison. The Houston forum was attended by 10 candidates, including Buttigieg, Perez, Ellison, Greene, Harrison, Peter Peckarsky, Buckley, Brown, and Vincent Tolliver. The Detroit forum was attended by 10 candidates (Vincent Tolliver was booted from the forum after criticizing Ellison’s faith, The Detroit News reported.) Other candidates who attended included Ellison, Buckley, Harrison, Boynton, and Buttigieg. Candidates who attended the Baltimore forum included Perez, Ellison, Buckley, Buttigieg, and six others.

The new chair will be voted on and announced on Saturday, February 25.

The winner will take over from interim leader Donna Brazile, who stepped in for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz after she resigned in July following the release of a series of damaging WikiLeaks emails that showed her and the Democratic Establishment colluding against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton.

Ellison and Perez are considered the leading candidates for the DNC chair position.

Ellison has attracted the support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), while Perez has received endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden,  Virginia Gov. Richard “Terry” McAuliffe and Colorado Gov. John Wright Hickenlooper among others.

The difference between both candidates and their list of endorsements appears to signal the growing, and divisive, internal battle within the Democratic Party between centrists and progressives.

Democratic party leaders have expressed concern with the extreme and aggressive approach radical progressives have exhibited in lobbying for Ellison. The Minnesota congressman is seen as a hard leftist.

In December, emeritus law professor at Harvard University, author and Orthodox Jew Alan Dershowitz, said if Ellison is elected as DNC chair he would resign from the Democratic Party. Dershowitz said in an interview on Fox Business Network’s Mornings with Maria Bartiromo:

If they now appoint Keith Ellison, who worked with Farrakhan, to be chairman of the DNC, you’re going to see a lot of people leave. I’m going to tell you right here on this show, and this is news, if they appoint Keith Ellison to be chairman of the Democratic party, I will resign my membership to the Democratic party after 50 years of being a loyal Democrat. I will still vote my conscience and mostly I will vote for Democrats, but I will not be a member of a party that represents itself through a chairman like Keith Ellison, and through policies like that espoused by John Kerry and Barack Obama.

Wednesday’s DNC chair debate will air at 10 p.m. EST (7 p.m. PST).

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz


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