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Ben Jealous endorses Keith Ellison for DNC

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) listens during a news conference in front of the Capitol February 1, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) listens during a news conference in front of the Capitol February 1, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Benjamin Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who became a leading surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign last year, endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison on Monday to lead the Democratic National Committee.

The endorsement came just days after 10 candidates to lead the national Democratic Party held a forum in Baltimore to debate the future of the Democratic party under President Donald Trump.

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"In this moment, the Democratic Party needs a leader who has the wherewithal to unite and lead the opposition," said Jealous, a Baltimore native and Maryland resident.

"With a young, progressive leader who rose from the grassroots, Keith's election will energize the Democratic base and ensure that state, county and local Democratic organizations are provided with the tools and financial resources necessary to build the party from the bottom up," he said.

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The support is likely to reinforce the idea that Ellison speaks to the more liberal, outsider wing of the party. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez of Maryland, also considered a frontrunner in the race, has been viewed by some as more of an insider -- in part because of his work in the Obama Justice and Labor departments.

Sanders had already backed Ellison. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland recently backed Perez.

The candidates to chair the DNC appeared at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday to lay out their visions for a party reeling from an election that cost them the White House and exposed deep divisions over its direction.

Democratic insiders will choose new leaders this month who will be charged with crafting a national economic message and, perhaps more importantly, rewiring how the party organizes for elections.

"Ben is an organizer in his home state of Maryland and across this country. He understands the importance of engaging voters 365 days a year," Ellison said.

"I look forward to working hand in hand with civil rights activists like Ben if I am elected chair of the party to fight every day for the issues that matter to everyday Americans and working families," he said.

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