© Greg Nash
The Democratic National Committee is kicking a candidate out of the chairman’s race after he told The Hill that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be the party’s next leader because he is a Muslim.
In a Jan. 5 email to The Hill, Vincent Tolliver, a former House candidate in Arkansas, said that Ellison, the first-ever Muslim elected to Congress, should not be chairman because of Islamic positions on homosexuality.
“His being a Muslim is precisely why DNC voters should not vote for him,” Tolliver wrote. “Muslims discriminate against gays. Islamic law is clear on the subject, and being gay is a direct violation of it. In some Muslim countries, being gay is a crime punishable by death.”
“Clearly, Mr. Ellison is not the person to lead the DNC or any other organization committed to not discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” Tolliver continued. “I’m shocked HRC [Human Rights Campaign] has been silent on the issue. A vote for Representative Ellison by any member of the DNC would be divisive and unconscionable, not to mention counterproductive to the immediate and necessary steps of rebuilding the Democratic Party.”
A spokesperson for Tolliver said he stands by the statement.
The Hill did not report on the remarks in early January because it was unclear whether Tolliver would be an active candidate for chair.
However, on Saturday, Tolliver participated in the DNC-sanctioned candidates forum in Houston, Texas.
The DNC announced on Tuesday that Tolliver would also be one of 11 candidates participating in the next forum in Detroit on Feb. 4.
But Tolliver is no longer invited to participate in the event.
“The Democratic Party welcomes all Americans from all backgrounds. What we do not welcome is people discriminating against others based on who they are or how they worship,” interim chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement to The Hill. “We expect candidates for Chair of the Party to conduct a respectful campaign based on issues. To assure that, we ask all our Chair candidates to pledge ‘to uphold the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States,’ and to participate in the process ‘in good faith.’ Mr. Tolliver’s disgusting comments attacking the religion of a fellow candidate fall far short of that standard. Accordingly, Mr. Tolliver is no longer a candidate for DNC Chair.”
Ellison’s spokesman Brett Morrow responded to Tolliver’s remarks in an email to The Hill:
“A few days after Donald Trump instituted a racist and unconstitutional Muslim ban, it’s disappointing that a fellow DNC candidate would fan the flames of intolerance,” Morrow said, although Tolliver made his statement weeks before President Trump signed his Friday executive order banning citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from coming the United States.
“Keith has shown first-hand his commitment to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, organizing tirelessly against the Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment in 2012, which led to a resounding win for love at the ballot box. Trump is taking away health care for millions of people, separating families, and alienating our allies. Keith will continue to focus on uniting the Democratic party to fight back against division and hate, and to fight for the core Democratic values of tolerance and inclusion.”
Ellison and former Labor secretary Tom Perez are viewed as the favorites to be the next DNC chair.
Those two and five other candidates — New Hampshire Democratic chairman Ray Buckley, South Carolina chairman Jaime Harrison, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former DNC official Jehmu Greene and Idaho Democratic official Sally Boynton Brown — have participated in all of the DNC’s Future Forum events at cities across the country.
An additional three candidates, not including Tolliver, will bring the field to 10 people at this weekend’s Detroit forum.
A spokesperson for the DNC said there is no signature threshold to participate in the forums. The events are open to anyone who reaches out to the DNC’s secretary to request inclusion.
The official field of candidates will likely narrow by Feb. 21, when the contenders are required to submit petitions signed by 20 DNC members.