Tensions at DNC could preview bitter leadership fight

The Democratic National Committee is gearing up for what could be a heated leadership battle, as tensions flare in the ranks after Republican Donald Trump won the presidency and Democrats were unable to take control of the House or Senate.

With the party relegated to the Washington wilderness, tempers reportedly flared on Thursday at DNC officials' first meeting since the election. Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile, whom WikiLeaks-released emails reveal had been privately aiding Hillary Clinton since the primaries, apparently was confronted by one DNC staffer.

“You are part of the problem. You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change,” the staffer told Brazile, according to The Huffington Post. He reportedly asked why they should trust her to lead, saying, "You backed a flawed candidate."

Brazile has not publicly announced any intention to seek the full-time position, saying only it's the responsibility of the interim chair to "complete the work of this cycle."

Perhaps indicating she plans to step back, Brazile tweeted that the "next Chair" must earn support and confidence and teased that she'd “make several important and vital announcements” next week.

Already, several Democratic figures -- some controversial in their own right -- have put their names in the running for chairman. With no obvious heir to the leadership role inhabited by President Obama, the race for the DNC top slot is shaping up to be a battle within the left wing of the party.

Former presidential candidate and ex-Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Friday he is taking “a hard look” at running because the party needs to “articulate a bold progressive vision.”

He joins another former presidential candidate, one-time Vermont governor and former DNC boss Howard Dean, who announced after the election he'll run for his old job.

Expected to jump in soon is Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. Fox News has confirmed he plans to announce his bid for DNC chairman on Monday -- and the congressman already is being backed by high-powered support.

"We need a Democratic National Committee led by a progressive who understands the dire need to listen to working families, not the political establishment or the billionaire class. That is why I support Keith Ellison to be the next Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and why I hope you'll join me in advocating for him to lead the DNC,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the hard-fought Democratic primaries to Clinton and continues to enjoy widespread support among voters, said in a statement.

Another popular figure on the left, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tipped her hat toward Ellison.

"I really, really like Keith," Warren told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. "I think he's terrific and I think he would make a terrific DNC chair."

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is in line to be Senate Minority Leader, also reportedly backed the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.

The election of any of these candidates to helm the DNC would signal the party plans to double down on the liberal vision espoused by Sanders during the primaries -- and adopted to a degree by Clinton during the general election.

Ellison, who co-sponsored a bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney, could be a controversial choice.

Shortly after his election in 2007, he compared President George W. Bush to Hitler and has been linked to the radical Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Brazile, meanwhile, is slated to remain as interim chair until March 2017. However, a MoveOn.org campaign has been launched to hold the leadership vote earlier.

Brazile was the DNC’s vice chair for civic engagement and voter participation and a paid CNN contributor before she was tapped on July 24 to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Florida congresswoman resigned after WikiLeaks exposed her apparent bias in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Brazile was no less a controversial figure.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Wikileaks released a series of emails that showed Al Gore’s former campaign manager allegedly provided the Clinton campaign with questions in advance of primary debates and town halls with Sanders.