PHILADELPHIA — Several Maryland Democrats said Monday that they agreed with Debbie Wasserman Schultz's decision to step down as the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, arguing it would blunt the controversy surrounding the party's leaked internal emails.
As the party opens its convention here today and prepares to nominate Hillary Clinton for president, the email scandal has played into larger questions about unity. The documents appear to suggest Bernie Sanders was correct to question the party's impartiality throughout the primary season.
"I have a lot of admiration for her but she understands that for party unity it's appropriate that she step aside and that we not be distracted," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who supported Clinton. "We have a bigger issue and that is defeating Donald Trump."
Benjamin Jealous, the former NAACP leader who led the Sanders campaign effort in Maryland, agreed.
"This is the week when we all come together," Jealous said. "It is so important that she has decided to step down. We had a DNC that's supposed to be impartial... [that had] become impartial and actually try to attack one of the leading candidates based on his faith."
A top party official has apologized after an email that surfaced in the WikiLeaks release showed him questioning Sanders' faith, and suggesting that characterizing him as an atheist could be politically advantageous. Sanders is Jewish.
Democrats are hoping to avoid the sort of overt signs of dissent that plagued the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Their ability to do so will depend largely on how die-hard Sanders delegates approach the convention, and whether they protest or raise issues on the floor.