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Ellison Rethinking If He'll Have To Leave Congress

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Keith Ellison is considering whether to resign his seat in Congress.

The 5th District congressman is running for chairman of the National Democratic Party.

On Friday, while talking to a gathering of state party chairs, Ellison said he may quit Congress to do it.

"I'm in the process of deciding this issue of whether I can perform both roles," Ellison told the DNC Winter Meeting in Denver.

Ellison won his sixth consecutive congressional term just one month ago, racking up 69 percent of the vote.

Now, he wants to lead national Democrats who are reeling from a devastating loss in the presidential race.

And he's fighting challenges from other candidates who say he can't be in Congress, and run the party at the same time.

"I absolutely can do both jobs," Ellison told WCCO-TV on Nov. 19. "I'm an energetic person. I work hard. What we really need more than anything is an organizer."

Since then, Ellison has apparently changed his mind.

He told DNC state party chairs he's considering leaving Congress if he wins the DNC post.

Ellison declined WCCO's request for an interview, but he is quoted in the New York Times saying: "I'm in the process of deciding this issue of whether I can perform both roles."

Ellison was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders, and has high profile support from top Democrats like Sens. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren.

But political analysts say Ellison may not fit the profile of what Democrats need right now.

"Democrats have this incredibly good ability to appeal to urban Democrats," said David Schultz, a Hamline University political science and law professor, "but not a good ability to appeal to rural, or, more importantly, suburban voters who they need desperately on their side."

If Ellison resigns, Gov. Mark Dayton could appoint a temporary successor and call a special election.

The election for the new DNC chair will take place early next year.

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