Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison's candidacy as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has received an endorsement from one of the most prominent labor organizations in the U.S.
On Nov. 8, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka announced the trade union's endorsement of Ellison, asserting that the Minnesota congressman would be a reliable ally to the working class.
"Representative Ellison meets the high standard working people expect from leaders of our political parties," Trumka said, according to Politico. "He is a proven leader who will focus on year-round grassroots organizing to deliver for working families across America."
Trumka concluded that Ellison would help the Democratic Party "embody the values that our members stand for every day."
The AFL-CIO endorsement for Ellison arrived after the trade union's Executive Council members conducted a straw poll on whether or not he would be a fitting representative of labor interests.
While running for DNC chair, Ellison has called for the Democratic Party to focus its attention on the working class.
"The AFL-CIO knows the challenges facing America's working families and how to speak to working Americans of all colors, genders, and backgrounds," Ellison said in response to Trumka's announcement. "I am proud to be on their side and I am even prouder that the AFL-CIO is on mine. Workers will be central to the Democratic Party."
The AFL-CIO's endorsement of Ellison arrives after his candidacy has been subject to a series of challenges, from accusations of anti-Semitism to vocal concerns over whether or not he can balance his duties as DNC chair and congressman.
On Dec. 1, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt blasted Ellison's candidacy, citing a 2010 speech the Minnesota congressman had made that was critical of U.S. foreign policy in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Greenblatt accused Ellison of deriding the U.S. alliance with Israel, deeming his previous comments "deeply disturbing and disqualifying."
Ellison pushed back against the accusations in an open letter, asserting that he was a supporter of Israeli security.
"I have been a strong supporter of the Jewish state. … I also am committed to its safety and security, and believe in the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and striving for a two-state solution," Ellison wrote.
On Dec. 2, Democratic donor Haim Saban accused Ellison of holding anti-Semitic views during a panel hosted by CNN.
"If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual," Saban said. The prominent donor added that he believed "Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party."
Ellison, who is the first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress, had previously defended Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, a controversial figure in the Jewish community. In 2006, Ellison condemned the group, citing "its propagation of bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, as well as others issues."
The Minnesota congressman has received the endorsement of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a staunch advocate for Israel. Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has publicly defended Ellison, calling the accusations of anti-Semitism "outrageous."
Meanwhile, several Democrats have voiced concerns that Ellison would have to balance the duties of running the DNC and as a Minnesota representative. On Dec. 7, Ellison announced that he would resign from his seat if he is elected DNC chair, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
"Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising," Ellison said. "I will be 'all-in' to meet the challenge."