Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean threw his support behind the mayor of South Bend, Ind., in the party’s leadership race.
Dean endorsed Pete Buttigieg over more well-known candidates Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
That makes Dean the fifth former DNC chairman to endorse the South Bend mayor, after Ed Rendell, Steve Grossman, David Wilhelm, and Joe Andrew. The election is Saturday.
Buttigieg, 35, has been mayor since 2012, attended Harvard and Oxford, is openly gay and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a Navy lieutenant.
“Most important thing, he’s the outside the Beltway candidate,” Dean told MSNBC this morning. “This party is in trouble. Our strongest age group that votes for us is under 35 and they don’t consider themselves Democrats.”
“They elected Barack Obama twice, they didn’t elect Hillary Clinton but voted 58 percent for her. They don’t come out during the midterms; they don’t come out for down-ballot votes,” he added. “Our leadership is old and creaky, including me. We’ve got to have this guy.”
Dean added that Buttigieg is “really, really capable and smart — he runs a city of 100,000 people. He’s got 1,000 people in his workforce. He’s what we need.”
Buttigieg tweeted after Dean’s interview, “Gov. Dean is calling for not just a 50-state but a 50-year strategy. That’s what I will work to establish as DNC chair – time for a change.”
Dean said “there’s a lot of, there are good people on the bench” in the Democratic Party “but they’re not empowered.”
“Our leadership is in their 60s and 70s. And the power in this party, potential power in this party, is under 35 years old. And if you want to change this party you’ve got to have leadership that looks like the people you’re going to change,” he said. “We need outside the Beltway. I’ve had enough of all these endorsements from senators and congressmen. And we need somebody with administrative experience, serving in the military certainly helps because Pete’s organized and he’s been in an area that most people wouldn’t want to go to, Afghanistan.”
“I just think this guy’s the real deal. And I think this is the only way that we’re going to capture this generation and get them to align with the Democratic Party. This is our future… we can’t do it unless we’re willing to pivot to outside the Beltway.”
Dean praised Perez and Ellison as good guys, but noted “they represent certain interests inside the Democratic Party who are at odds with each other.”
“The fact that neither one of them has locked this up by this time tells you something about the nature of this race,” he added. “I think it’s time for an outsider. I was an outsider. I came in, we didn’t have the House, the Senate or the presidency and when I left we had the House, the presidency and the Senate.”