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Candidates for DNC chair vow to rebuild the party by empowering the grassroots

The candidates running to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Saturday the party must look beyond Washington as it looks to rebuild from a series of election setbacks and do more to empower the grassroots.

The seven candidates running to lead the DNC appeared on the same stage for the first time Saturday in Phoenix at the first of four scheduled DNC “Future Forums” that will set the stage for a vote at the party’s four-day Spring meeting in Atlanta, which kicks off Feb. 23.

“We have to rebuild the trust relationship with the voter,” said Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. “We have got to build that relationship on a personal basis.”

Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said the party has wasted billions of dollars on television ads and direct mail that “does not do anything other than make corporate media rich.”

“We need to take just a small percentage of that and invest it in our state parties and our local committees and show them respect because we know once again Washington is not the answer,” Mr. Buckley said.

Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said activists feel alienated.

“I think most people feel like outsiders in our party right now,” Ms. Brown said. “We need to be inside, all working together.”

The next DNC chair will take over a party that has been doing some soul-searching following the 2016 election and looking to regain its footing at both the national and state level. Donald Trump is set to be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the GOP holds a record number of state legislatures.

Donna Brazille has served as the interim chair since Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down last year after leaked emails showed members of the DNC were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton in her Democratic primary race against Sen. Bernie Sanders, enraging party activists.

Candidates on Saturday vowed to unify the party and get beyond any hard feelings that could still be festering in the party.

“Folks ask me are you a Clinton Democrat or are you a Sanders, or Bernie-crat, or are you an Obama Democrat. Guys, I grew up in South Carolina, and all I ever knew was just being a Democrat,” said Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Mayor Tom Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. said the party does not have time to relitigate what happened in the 2016 election and warned against the “false choices” that suggest Democrats must choose between one wing of the party or another.

Mr. Buttigieg also warned against becoming too focused on Mr. Trump instead of communicating the party’s message.

“If we think some news headline is going to come along and it is going to be the one that finally reveals that Donald Trump isn’t a good guy, you have got to understand that a lot of the people that live right up the street from me that voted for him already know he is not a good guy,” he said. “They voted for him anyway. Why? Well, for one thing we were so busy talking about Donald Trump that they were saying ‘Who is talking about me?’”

Rounding out the list of candidates are Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Fox News analyst Jehmu Greene, who jumped into the race on Friday.

“I know I have a lot of listening and learning to do, but I also know when you get to know my record of success and understand the role, the important, critical, role that black women play for the Democratic electorate than I hope to get your vote,” Ms. Green said.

Mr. Perez said the party must get a better handle on how Mr. Trump flipped counties that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2012.

“We have to make house calls in this job,” he said. “We’ve got to talk to those voters who weren’t touched. We have to make sure that rural America understands that our message of economic opportunity is the message that will help them better their lives.”

Mr. Perez said the party must be smart in the way it takes the fight to Mr. Trump, warning against trying to go tweet-for-tweet with him.

“We have got to understand that you don’t go to a knife fight with a spoon,” he said. “I have fought a lot of fights in my life and never brought a spoon to them unless I was eating yogurt afterwards.”

The candidates agreed that DNC’s budget should be more transparent and signaled support for reviewing the role that “superdelegates” play in the nomination process. But they appeared split over whether the party should reinstate a ban on donations from federal lobbying and political-action committees, with Mr. Ellison, Mr .Harrison and Mr. Perez warning the effort could have unintended consequences.

“How are we going to make up the money?” Mr. Ellison said, while suggesting he is opening to debating the issue.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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