Keith Ellison will resign Congress for DNC chair

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC chair
  • Ellison has no plans to leave his lawmaking job before the DNC election

(CNN)Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is looking to give a boost to his bid to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee by announcing Wednesday that he is willing to walk away from his Congressional seat if he gets the job.

"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 in a statement.
Ellison has been dogged by questions about whether he could fully focus on rebuilding the Democratic party while also working full-time in Congress. The most recent DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, represented a Florida Congressional district while heading the organization.
    Other people interested in the job include Jaime Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.
    Ellison also has faced recent accusations of anti-Semitism from a prominent Democratic donor, Haim Saban, who called him an "anti-Semite" at a conference last week.
    "If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual," donor Haim Saban said at the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum. "Words matter and actions matter more. Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party."
    A CNN KFile review of Ellison's past writings and public statements reveal his repeated defense of Louis Farrakhan and other black leaders against accusations of anti-Semitism. But none of the records showed examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.
    A spokesperson for Ellison recently told CNN that Ellison "rejects all forms of anti-Semitism" and said "the right wing has been pushing these stories for years to drive a wedge between Congressman Ellison and the Jewish community."
    Ellison -- who originally supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race -- said he wants to devote more energy to helping the Democrats win back the white working class voters they lost to Donald Trump.
    "But at this point, the Democratic Party must be the party that delivers for working people," he said. "For me, that means a chair with only one full time commitment."
    Donna Brazile became the interim chairperson of the committee in July, following Wasserman Schultz stepping down in the wake of a controversy over emails hacked by Wikileaks.