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Minnesota's Ellison would resign from U.S. House if he wins Democratic post

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, right, remarks how U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is the most progressive member of Congress at the start of a rally Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 26, 2016 at the DECC Arena in Duluth, Minn. More than 5,000 supporters attended the event. Clint Austin / Forum News Service

WASHINGTON — Keith Ellison confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 7, that he would resign from the U.S. House if he is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Minneapolis Democrat earlier had said he has the energy to remain a congressman while running the party. In recent days, however, he backed down from that and on Wednesday released a statement saying that he would quit his congressional job if elected.

After last month's presidential and congressional losses at the polls, Ellison said, party faithful want a full-time Democratic National Committee chairman.

"In order to further their commitment and maximize my effectiveness, I have decided to resign as a member of Congress if I win the election for DNC chair," he said.

Ellison has drawn widespread support for the job, especially after one-time Chairman Howard Dean dropped out of the race.

"Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising," the congressman said. "I will be 'all-in' to meet the challenge."

He said he heard from more than 400 voting members of the national committee who said they would not vote for him unless he left Congress.

"Since I threw my hat in the ring a few weeks ago for the chair of the Democratic National Committee, I have had the privilege, pleasure and benefit of listening to a great many party activists, including folks with long years of service and those brand new to the party," Ellison said. "I have learned one thing: Democrats are ready for a massive comeback."

If Ellison is elected in the party's Feb. 23 vote, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton could schedule a special election to replace him. The heavily Democratic western Twin Cities district should provide plenty of candidates.

Two Democratic state senators, who face the 2017 session in the minority after Republicans took control in the Nov. 8 election, have said they will run if Ellison leaves the House.

Sen. Scott Dibble, 51, said he is making plans. The same goes for Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, 52.

Dibble has served in the Legislature since 2001, and most recently has been transportation chairman. Torres Ray has been senator since 2007 and has been State and Local Government Committee chairwoman.

While both won four-year terms last month, they will face the unusual situation of Democrats being in the minority the next four years, which means they will have relatively little say in important matters.

Ellison, 53, also was re-elected on Nov. 8, giving him a sixth term in the U.S. House after serving in the Minnesota Legislature.

He was a Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter before Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination for president.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.