Dean, a former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential contender, praised Buttigieg for representing interests “outside the beltway.” His endorsement on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” could mark a major blow to frontrunners Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez ahead of Saturday’s election in Atlanta.
“If you want to change this party, you have to have leadership that looks like the people you are going to change,” Dean said. “Pete is organized and he’s been in an area that most people wouldn’t want to go to: Afghanistan. I think this is the only way that we are going to capture this generation and get them to align with the Democratic Party.”
Buttigieg would become the youngest and first openly gay DNC chairman if elected by the majority of the DNC’s 447 voting members. He has also picked up endorsements from former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, nine mayors of major cities, and four other former DNC chairs.
The candidate tweeted Wednesday that he was “honored” to receive Dean’s endorsement.
Dean’s 2005 to 2009 tenure as the DNC chairman helped electrify the Democratic Party. It has served as a model for nearly every candidate in the DNC race this year.
At last month’s DNC debate hosted by The Huffington Post, each candidate praised Dean for his 50-state strategy. The policy emphasized having a Democratic Party apparatus in every state, regardless of the likelihood that it would be a winning one during that particular cycle.
“This is our future,” Dean said of Buttigieg’s candidacy on Wednesday. “[We need] not a 50-state strategy but a 50-year strategy ― and we can’t do it unless we are willing to pivot outside the beltway.”
Dean announced in November that he would again seek the DNC’s top position, but dropped out of the race the following month.
This article has been updated with more details, including more information on the DNC election.