WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Tim Roemer (search) said Sunday that he's joining the race to lead the Democratic National Committee (search) — a move certain to spark a heated debate about the abortion issue.
Roemer, a Catholic from Indiana who opposes abortion (search), said said he respects the position of Democrats who favor abortion choice and have written it into their party platform.
"I'm not asking to rewrite the platform," he said on ABC's "This Week." "We have a majority of our party, an overwhelming majority of our party, that is pro-choice, and I respect that. But I think we should not only be more inclusive on this issue, especially in the Midwest and the South if a candidate has those views, we should have them in our party."
He said he's joining the race to expand the party both geographically and ideologically.
In the last election, "the Democratic Party lost 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the United States. We have four senators, Democrat senators, left in the Deep South," Roemer said. He said Democrats also have lost ground with Hispanic voters, "churchgoing African-American voters" and Catholics.
Kate Michelman, a leading advocate for abortion choice, said "the election of such a staunchly anti-choice leader would signal that the Democratic Party is retreating from one of its core principles."
Roemer joins a field that includes former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, Democratic activists Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Ohio Democratic Party chirman David Leland. Howard Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate, is considering whether to join the race.
Senior Democrats have approached current chairman Terry McAuliffe about staying in the job.
Democrats will vote on the choice in February.