Capitol Alert

Keith Ellison, in DNC chair race, gathering support from Californians

U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, right, a candidate for the Democratic National Committee chair hugs U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, also a candidate also for the DNC chair, during the DNC Future of the Party Forum at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Hotel, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Phoenix.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, right, a candidate for the Democratic National Committee chair hugs U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, also a candidate also for the DNC chair, during the DNC Future of the Party Forum at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Hotel, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Phoenix. AP

Rep. Keith Ellison, campaigning to lead the Democratic Party, is coalescing a growing group of leaders in California.

Earlier this week, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton sided with the Minnesota Democrat over former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, joining a list that includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Reps. Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu and Maxine Waters, ex-Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and labor icon Dolores Huerta.

Ellison is backed by longtime labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, and several other of the state’s nation-leading 38 voting DNC members, from Alice Germond, and Sandra Lowe to Michael Kapp and Melahat Rafiei. Ellison’s range of endorsements and commitments underscore California’s liberal streak and the growing unrest nationally with the party’s establishment wing in the age of Republican Donald Trump.

Ellison issued a statement Thursday saying he is proud of the support he’s received from the Golden State.

“The fact is that California Democrats know how to win elections, and they know why it's so important that we organize 365 days a year,” Ellison said. “I have a long track record of doing just that in Minnesota and around the country. And it's what I plan to do if I'm elected as the next DNC chair. The stakes are far too high with Donald Trump in the White House, and we need to do hold him accountable at every possible moment.”

Also on Thursday, Controller Betty Yee, among the most progressive statewide officials, lined up behind Ellison’s campaign, citing the discord under Trump.

“In these challenging times when the politics of divisiveness is an everyday occurrence, when the threat of deportation has become a reality, and when the erosion of health care and women’s rights bring alarm, we need leaders who are bold and unafraid,” Yee said, adding that the Muslim congressman knows what it’s like to “be on the other side of hate.”

Perez’s highest-profile supporter from California is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, but on Wednesday he earned the backing of a pair of battleground state activists: Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

“To win states like Ohio, Democrats must have a leader who can rebuild our party, reach out to our big tent and refocus our message on creating real economic opportunity for Americans in rural counties, small cities and our urban centers," Pepper said.

Democrats select their next chairman when they meet in Atlanta on Feb. 23 for their winter meeting.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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