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Dean drops out of DNC chairmanship race
DENVER - Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean dropped out of the race to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday.
Dean, who served as DNC chairman from 2005 to 2009, announced in a pre-recorded video to a conference of state Democratic chairs that he would step aside to allow for a new face to lead the party as it seeks to rebuild.
That reduces the field of candidates to three.
The front-runner is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who has racked up endorsements from Washington lawmakers and national labor unions.
South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison and New Hampshire Chairman Ray Buckley are also in the race.
President Obama's allies are trying to recruit Labor Secretary Tom Perez for the role, and NARAL President Ilyse Hogue is also considering a bid.
Dean did not say whom he would support.
But he said the chairmanship must be a full-time job, a hurdle to Ellison's bid.
"I know this job better than anyone in this room," Dean said. "It requires 80 hours of work a week and constant travel across the country to fundraise. ... This is a full-time job."
Dean also said the fight to be the next chairman can not develop into a proxy war between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ellison is backed by Sanders. Harrison backed Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary. Buckley remained neutral.
During an interview on MSNBC minutes after his video announcement, Dean reiterated that he does not support Ellison's bid unless he was willing to give up his seat, noting that while Ellison has support from many high-profile Democrats, none of those politicians are DNC members who can vote in the chair's race.
And he said that the party should not only have a strategy to win every state, but to win younger voters.
"I made this decision two or three weeks ago. Once I was in, I got a quick lay of the land. I think I would have and could have won," he said.
"I really feel strongly our party needs to turn itself over to the next generation. I'm happy to stay in the background and help coach the next chair."
The former Vermont governor moved quickly to jump into the race to lead the party after a disastrous Election Day. Democrats still credit him with much of the work done to grow the party after George W. Bush's 2000 presidential victory.
The Democrats won the House, Senate and ultimately the presidency under Dean's leadership, after the GOP controlled all three when he took over in 2005.
But in recent weeks, he began to lag behind the other candidates in the race to woo the more than 400 voting DNC members.
- Updated at 4:57 p.m.