By Chris Johnson, Washington Blade
One week before the Democratic National Committee will vote on its next chair, one of two openly gay candidates in the race – New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley – has dropped out and endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).
In a statement Saturday, Buckley announced he’d remove his name from contention in the crowded field of candidates and endorse Ellison, maintaining he’d strengthen state parties and reform the DNC.
“Now, many candidates have spoken about these issues, but Keith’s commitment to the states and a transparent and accountable DNC has stood out,” Buckley said. “He knows elections are not won and lost in the beltway, but on the ground across the country. His plan, in fact, shared many of the same ideas and principles as my own. We both believe in investing in all 50 states, Democrats Abroad, and the territories, providing support and resources to help state parties succeed, and organizing in every county across this great country.”
Buckley has been New Hampshire Democratic Party chair since 2007 and was the first openly gay state chair for a major U.S. party. Coming from a state where Hillary Clinton narrowly won in the presidential election and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) was able to oust a Republican incumbent, Buckley said both he and Ellison “have a track record of winning elections.”
“While it was a tremendous honor to run for DNC chair over the past few months, I am proud to throw my support behind Keith so we can ensure that the next chair of the DNC is dedicated to investing in and strengthening state parties and ensuring that the DNC is an accountable organization,” Buckley said. “As I’ve talked to the DNC membership, it’s clear Keith has widespread support, and I know as our next DNC Chair Keith will successfully unite and grow our party.”
Buckley was considered a long-shot candidate in the race. Among his endorsements were Barbra Casbar Siperstein, a transgender member of the Democratic National Committee from New Jersey, and Stuart Milk, an international LGBT rights advocate and nephew of gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk.
Accepting the endorsement, Ellison said in a statement “there is no better example of a strong state party than the New Hampshire Democratic Party” and atttributed its success to Buckley.
“Democrats in the Granite State have an incredible track record, winning 11 out of the last 13 statewide elections,” Ellison said. “That’s because of the decades of work by Ray, who believes, like I do, that the Democratic Party must strengthen and empower our state and local parties.”
Ellison said he’s “heard loud and clear from DNC members that this is a moment to use all our talents to rebuild the party from the grassroots up” and thinks Buckley’s methods in New Hampshire will be key for the Democratic Party nationwide.
“The model that Ray has built in New Hampshire and his work as the president of the ASDC is something that we need as we rebuild all 57 state parties,” Ellison said. “When we have a successful outcome in Atlanta next week, I have asked him to lead our effort to provide the support and resources the state parties need in a new and innovative 57 state strategy. Because in this fight against Donald Trump and Republican-controlled states, we need every state party firing on all cylinders. That’s how we take our country back, and I cannot be more proud to have Ray Buckley by my side in this fight.”
Ellison, who along with former Labor Secretary Tom Perez is considered one of two front-runners in the race — is the only candidate running for DNC chair who has spelled out a specific plan for advancing LGBT issues at the DNC. Among his ideas are growing the newly created DNC LGBT advisory board, promoting strong LGBT delegate goals for the 2020 national convention and ensuring gender non-conforming people can participate in the DNC and convention.
Even though Buckley has dropped out of the race, another gay candidate, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, remains in contention. In an interview with the Washington Blade, Buttigieg said he’s running to make the Democratic Party more viable in the heartland.
The election for chair is set to take place Saturday during the DNC’s winter meeting in Atlanta over the course of next week.