Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) sent a letter to Democratic National Committee (DNC) members on Friday, urging them to back Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in the DNC chair race.
Lewis touted Ellison as a powerful organizer with a deep background in protecting civil rights and the best candidate for the job of rebuilding a fractured Democratic Party.
“Keith's long history as an organizer who can energize the grassroots makes him the best choice to lead our party during this critical time,” Lewis said in a statement.
Ellison was the first candidate to jump into the DNC race and earned early support from top party leaders, including Senate Democratic leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerLawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Cruz: 'Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown' GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE (N.Y.) and top labor unions like the AFL-CIO.
He is locked in a tight race with former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has gained traction in the race.
Lewis had previously announced his support for Ellison and his letter comes a few days after Perez landed a high-profile endorsement from former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump’s wall jams GOP in shutdown talks Bipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemanding transparency and fairness from Trump tax plan Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ Dem rep: Trump's tax plan as believable as 'magic, unicorns or Batman' MORE (I-Vt.), who’s backing Ellison, responded to Biden’s endorsement, saying that while he respects both the former vice president and Perez, they are part of the “failed status-quo approach.” Ellison was a loyal supporter of Sanders during the Democratic presidential primaries against eventual nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonObama's speech proves hypocrisy of Democrat's anti-Wall Street rhetoric Lawmakers targeted as district politics shift Want a tremendous deal on infrastructure spending? Suspend Davis-Bacon MORE.
The Vermont senator’s response angered Democratic Party officials, who accused Sanders of relitigating the bruising primary fight as the party seeks to move on and unite the different factions.
The DNC’s 447 members will convene in Atlanta in late February to cast their votes for the next national party chairman.
Lewis represents most of Atlanta and its suburbs and his Friday statement took a swipe at President Trump, who earlier this month tweeted that the congressman’s district is “crime infested” and “falling apart.” His tweet was in response to Lewis’s announcement that he was boycotting Trump’s inauguration.
The Georgia Democrat lauded Ellison as the best candidate to take on the Trump administration.
“I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting for the rights that are being viciously attacked by Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFirst 100 days: A true reflection of Trump, poor reflection of America Fox poll: Trump approval below 50 percent Pelosi gives Trump an incomplete for first 100 days MORE and his administration,” Lewis said. “As Democrats, we must seek a leader who has demonstrated the ability to continue the fight to protect all that we hold dear as a nation.”