Wasserman Schultz has been criticized for her leadership of the DNC
Sen. Dick Durbin was floated as a replacement
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz appears safe as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee until the November elections after Democrats privately mulled options to replace her, including with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, according to several sources familiar with the discussions.
Wasserman Schultz had come under withering criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters who accused the Florida congresswoman of being unfairly biased toward Hillary Clinton. Sanders, who publicly backed the congresswoman’s primary foe, demanded new leadership at the DNC as he began negotiations with Clinton over his endorsement of his presidential bid.
But those talks didn’t pick up much steam, sources said, with Clinton showing little appetite to boot Wasserman Schultz and cause a distraction, while Sanders focused his energy instead on influencing the party platform.
In the aftermath of the rowdy Nevada Democratic convention in May, where angry Sanders supporters heckled Clinton surrogates, Democrats on Capitol Hill grew increasingly nervous that the same episode could play out at the Philadelphia convention this month. And they privately worried that Wasserman Schultz would not be able to control the outrage of Sanders’ supporters who felt party leaders tilted the scales toward Clinton.
So privately, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid offered an alternative: Durbin as Wasserman Schultz’s replacement, according to several people familiar with the situation. In an interview on Tuesday, Durbin confirmed to CNN that he spoke with Reid about the matter, but downplayed the discussion.
“A lot of people put my name up but I didn’t ask for any of this,” Durbin said.
Asked about Reid floating his name, Durbin said: “He told me that he had mentioned it. That was as far as it went. There wasn’t any active discussion. Nothing came of it.”
When Clinton took over the DNC last month, the campaign named Brandon Davis, a former national political director for the Services Employees International Union, as the chief of staff, giving him day-to-day control over the operation and effectively limiting the role of the Florida Democrat, according to people familiar with the matter.
A DNC spokesman declined to comment. And the Clinton campaign referred questions to prior statements the former secretary of state made about the controversy, where she noted that Wasserman Schultz was Obama’s choice, suggesting there could be changes after the elections.
“I’ve seen how committed she is to making sure Donald Trump is not the president,” Clinton told USA Today last month. “I’ve not heard any conversations in the party about changes.”
After telling the newspaper that Wasserman Schultz was installed by Obama, she added: “Obviously, we’re going to go forward after this election with a new and invigorated party,” she said.
A Clinton aide said Tuesday: “We have nothing more to add.”
What helped Wasserman Schultz this time were comments made by President Barack Obama at a Miami fundraiser for the DNC last month, where he threw the congresswoman a lifeline.
“She’s had my back. I want to make sure we have her back,” Obama said at the time.
Now, as the party heads into the nominating convention this month, and after Sanders endorsed Clinton Tuesday in New Hampshire, there seems to be little appetite for a drawn-out committee fight over naming a replacement.
One Democratic source who was eager for new blood lamented, “We had a chance, but we’re stuck with her.”