DENVER – Howard Dean took himself out of the race to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, warning that the race could become contentious but vowing to support whoever is elected.
Dean, who was previously elected DNC chair after his unsuccessful 2004 bid for the party's presidential nomination, announced he'd run again for the position days after last month's election, in which Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Republican Donald Trump. He made his surprise announcement of withdrawal from the contest in a videotaped message on Friday to a Denver meeting of Democratic state party chairs.
"I am not going to be a candidate for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship," Dean said near the conclusion of his five-minute video, after talking about how the position is a full-time job. "I have other priorities; I have a grandchild now."
The former Vermont governor warned that the race shouldn't become a proxy fight between supporters of Clinton and those of her primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But he also acknowledged it could be divisive and pledged to support the winner.
Dean focused on the full-time nature of the job and the likely non-stop travel amid questions about whether the front-runner, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, could be chairman and congressman. That was a criticism of the last DNC chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The other announced candidates - Ellison, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison — all emphasized the need for the party to focus on local grass-roots organizing after reaching a historic low in statehouses and governorships.
The Democrats met after their dispiriting showing on Election Day, when they lost the White House and only made small gains in the House and Senate. Next year, Republicans will have a monopoly in Washington, including majorities in Congress.