- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2017

A new candidate emerged Thursday in the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as a 34-year-old mayor from South Bend, Indiana, said he would strive to make the party more responsive to Midwest values.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg said it was time for new leadership in the Democratic Party and vowed to give the party a “fresh” start after disastrous losses in November’s election.

“I am asking you to join me as I run for chair of the Democratic Party, and together we will write a new turnaround story,” he said in an online video.

DNC members will select a chairman at a meeting in Atlanta next month, with Mr. Buttigieg joining a field that already includes Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley and South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison.

Josh Kaplan, political science professor at the University of Notre Dame, said Mr. Buttigieg has been billed as a rare political talent, is more of a policy wonk than an ideologue and appears to come with less political baggage than his top rivals.

“His appeal for the DNC is that he represents the alternative to the two main contenders, and he would be a way of avoiding a polarized DNC,” Mr. Kaplan said, alluding to Mr. Ellison and Mr. Perez. “In other words, it would be a way to avoid [the question of] who is going to win: the Bernie wing of the party or the Obama wing of the party?”

Mr. Ellison has the backing of major liberal figures including Sen. Bernard Sanders, while Mr. Perez is believed to be the preferred candidate of President Obama.

Mr. Ellison welcomed the new challenger to the race, calling him courageous for announcing he was gay in an op-ed he wrote for a local newspaper following the 2015 political battle over religious liberty in Indiana and before the Supreme Court paved the way for same-sex marriage. He also won re-election that year.

“We need more young and energetic elected officials in our party,” Mr. Ellison said. “Pete showed tremendous courage during his re-election campaign when he came out — no easy thing to do in a red state like Indiana in the middle of an election.”

Democrats are looking to rebuild after a disappointing 2016 election in which voters in states across the Midwest and the Rust Belt helped elect Donald Trump as president and helped Republicans shield their House and Senate majorities.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, urged members of the DNC to give Mr. Buttigieg a good look over the coming weeks, saying he “has the capability of bringing a much-needed Midwest voice to the Democratic Party that will resonate across the country.”

“November’s election made one point very clear: The Midwest and the issues important to this region should never be ignored,” he said. “Pete is a young and dynamic talent that we need at the top of our party, and I am happy to support a Hoosier for DNC Chair.”

Mr. Buttigieg received a bachelor’s degree in history and literature from Harvard and a master’s in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford, where he was a Rhoades scholar.

In 2010 he ran against incumbent State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and lost in a landslide. The following year he rebounded by getting elected mayor of South Bend. In 2014 he spent seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

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