dnc debate ellison 07
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01:10 - Source: CNN
Atlanta CNN  — 

Progressive activist groups backing Keith Ellison in the race to chair the Democratic National Committee are making a final push for the Minnesota congressman the day before the vote.

In a letter to DNC members obtained by CNN, the leaders of five groups at the heart of the political left – MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, 350 Action and Presente Action – argued that only Ellison can bridge the divide between the Democratic establishment and the party’s grassroots.

The groups also said they’d be “eager to engage” directly with the party’s infrastructure under Ellison’s leadership.

It was an implicit rebuke of former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who is in a tight race with Ellison for DNC chair.

The letter comes as progressive groups – many of which allied with Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary – make their final case for Ellison even as Perez’s camp says it is near the 222 of 442 eligible voting DNC members it will need to secure the job.

Members will vote Saturday in Atlanta.

“The DNC has traditionally operated separate from groups like ours that organize millions of people,” the groups wrote. “If Keith Ellison was chair and proposed partnering on state-level voter registration activities and issue mobilization rallies, we would be eager to engage in that conversation. If he announced a plan to wean the Democratic Party off dependency on big money and toward a small-dollar fundraising model, we would be eager to engage in that conversation as partners.

They continued: “If Keith Ellison is DNC chair, we can hit the ground running – and because of the pre-existing trust that exists between Keith and the grassroots, every state party would have a head start harnessing the power of the resistance.”

The letter was signed by PCCC co-founders Stephanie Taylor and Adam Green, MoveOn.org Civic Action executive director Anna Galland, MoveOn.org Political Action executive director Ilya Sheyman, Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain and elections director Annie Weinberg, 350 Action executive director May Boeve and Presente Action executive director Matt Nelson.

Perez, meanwhile, was endorsed Thursday by South Carolina Democratic chairman Jaime Harrison – who aides and vote-counters for the candidates for DNC chair had identified as the clear third-place contender.

A source close to Perez said he has about 200 commitments of support from DNC members already, and expects to pick up about 20 of the 30 or so supporters Harrison had.

The progressive groups’ letter also just after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York – Ellison’s most significant supporter from the Democratic establishment – sent a letter to DNC members on his behalf.

Schumer defended Ellison’s status as a “pro-Israel” Democrat amid criticism of previous comments he’d made that had led to accusations of anti-Semitism, which Ellison has denied.

He also touted Ellison as the best candidate to channel the anti-Donald Trump energy that has led to massive women’s marches and town hall protests across the country.

“Keith Ellison will energize our Democratic Party across the country and is the best leader to turn the massive grassroots energy now on display into winning electoral campaigns across the country,” Schumer wrote.

“We have a tremendous challenge in front of us – and a tremendous opportunity to more effectively tap into the broad energy now on display, and to also hone a more sharp-edged and bold, populist economic message and platform,” he wrote. “We need Keith’s energy, excitement and organizing skills to mobilize our grassroots and elect Democrats at every level of government.”