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Indiana mayor jumps into race for DNC chair

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced on Thursday that he is joining the crowded race for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman.

In an announcement video, Buttigieg made an indirect reference to leading DNC candidates, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), saying that solutions to rebuilding the Democratic Party “won’t come from Washington.”

“They’ll come from our communities, across all of America’s 50 states and territories,” he said in the video. “It’s time for new leadership, to deliver the fresh start our party needs.”

Buttigieg, 34, was considering entering the race last month and said he received phone calls from DNC members both in his home state and nationally. The New York Times first reported the news of him entering the race.

In his two-minute long video, Buttigieg ticked through a laundry list of issues the party needs to tackle, including student debt, restrictions on women’s healthcare and limits on voting rights.

“We are the true party for families,” he said. “And we must always be the party of the future.” 

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In an appearance on MSNBC late Thursday, Buttigieg said he is well-equipped to lead the party's upcoming fight against Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE because of his experience as a Indiana mayor and a military service member.

“Nothing could be more important than organizing the opposition against what’s going to be the most monstrous presidency of our lifetimes," he said.

Buttigieg, who is openly gay, is a Harvard graduate and a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. He unsuccessfully ran for Indiana state treasurer in 2010. During his mayoral reelection in 2015, he penned an op-ed in a local newspaper announcing that he was gay.

He’s considered a rising star in the party—especially since he hails from a red state. In 2016, a Times columnist published a story about him in June 2016 asking whether Buttigieg would be “The First Gay President."

He joins a growing field for DNC chair, which also includes South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Democratic Party Raymond Buckley and Idaho Democratic Party executive director Sally Boynton Brown.

Ellison enjoys the backing of many former Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE presidential supporters and Perez is thought to enjoy some White House backing, but none of the candidates so far has locked up a majority of the 437 DNC voters ahead of the party's late February vote.

Ellison was considered the early front-runner, jumping into the race early and quickly racking up a number of endorsements from high-profile lawmakers and labor unions.

Since Perez entered the race, he’s also scored significant support and earned praise from President Obama, though he won’t officially get involved in the race.

The DNC chair race opens up the potential for a proxy war since Ellison was a close surrogate to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s in the Democratic presidential primary, while Perez worked in Obama’s administration and was a loyal supporter to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton offers congratulations over Elliot Page announcement Biden brushes off criticism of budget nominee Mellman: Mired in Partisanship MORE.

But most DNC voting members remain undecided about who should take the reins.

Ellison released a statement shortly after Buttigieg’s announcement, saying that Democrats need “more young and energetic elected officials.”

“Pete showed tremendous courage during his re-election campaign when he came out—no easy thing to do in a red-state like Indiana in the middle of an election,” Ellison said. “I look forward to discussing the future of our party with him in this race.”

The DNC’s 447 voting members will convene in late February to decide who will helm the party.

-- Mark Hensch contributed