John Lewis pitches Ellison for DNC chairman

John Lewis pitches Ellison for DNC chairman
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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.

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“He knows that sometimes you have to have good trouble. You have to get in the way and raise your voice. But protest must be channeled into electoral and legislative success,” he continued. “Keith’s record standing with the grassroots means he is a trusted partner to harness this protest energy into rebuilding Democratic Party.”

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 SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases Trump: Pelosi's leadership good for the GOP Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill 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 BidenReport: Biden scolded hedge fund manager over late son OPINION: Democrats are going to keep losing if they can't articulate a vision Biden tells LGBT community to hold Trump accountable MORE.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: ‘Thousands will die’ under GOP health bill A tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 ClintonReport: Biden scolded hedge fund manager over late son Poll: Former AG Lynch should be investigated OPINION: Dear media, Americans don't care about Obama's legacy 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 TrumpOPINION: Dear media, Americans don't care about Obama's legacy Make America’s classroom and workplaces safe again Preet Bharara emailed DOJ about phone call from Trump: report 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.”