Ellison May Quit Congress to Lead Democrats

The Congressman may jump ship for the DNC shortly after winning a sixth term.

Rep. Keith Ellison spoke to state Democratic Party chairs from across the country on Friday, leaving open for the first time the possibility he may leave Congress, reports the Star Tribune.

Ellison has previously claimed that he was capable of running the DNC and representing Minnesota’s fifth congressional district simultaneously. He continued to insist on that point Friday, though he called the DNC job the more important of the two.

“Though I love being in Congress because it allows me to serve my neighbors, I do think that it is more important to build, strengthen the DNC,” Ellison said, reports the Star Tribune.

Ellison still faces strong opponents in his bid to lead the Democrats against President-elect Donald Trump. While The Hill reports former Vermont Governor Howard Dean dropped out from the DNC Chair race on Friday, New Hampshire party chair Raymond Buckley and South Carolina party chair Jamie Harrison still remain.

“I know this job better than anyone in this room,” Dean, a former DNC Chair, said reports The Hill, “It requires 80 hours of work a week and constant travel across the country to fundraise. … This is a full-time job.”

Ellison will have to convince 224 of 447 voting members of the DNC that he is the right person to lead the party following their defeat across all levels of government in November. The DNC chair handles fundraising and strategy for national elections.

Voters handed Ellison an overwhelming victory yet again in his bid for a sixth term in Congress this year. He won 69.2 percent of the vote, while Republican challenger Frank Drake won just 22.3 percent, the worst showing for a Republican in Minnesota’s fifth since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

If Ellison were to leave Congress there would likely be a quick special election to fill his seat. The real race there would be the DFL primary. When Ellison’s predecessor Martin Sabo announced his intention to retire, there was a 10 person fight for the endorsement. Ellison ended up winning the endorsement on the fourth ballot, and then defeated three holdouts in the primary with 41 percent of the vote.

If Ellison indeed departs Congress for the DNC position, another such fight would likely ensue.