Keith Ellison downplays Joe Biden's endorsement of Tom Perez as "demonstration of loyalty"

Rep. Keith Ellison said Wednesday that former Vice President Joe Biden's endorsement of former Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the race to lead the Democratic party amounted to little more than a "demonstration of loyalty" to a former cabinet member in the Obama administration. 

"All I'll say is, Tom worked for the administration," Ellison said in an interview after an event on Capitol Hill. "That's, uh, you know, a demonstration of loyalty."

"I'm sure I'll work very, very closely with the vice president after I win the DNC chair," Ellison added.

Ellison, a 10-year veteran of Congress from Minnesota, is locked in a battle with Perez over who will decide the direction of the Democratic Party's national structure and campaigning. Perez, who previously held local office in Maryland, oversaw civil rights in the Justice Department during President Barack Obama's first term and then, until Trump's election, as labor secretary in the second term.

Tom Perez, candidate for chair of the DNC, at a Treasury department event in June 2016.Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Of the five candidates running for DNC chair, Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, maintained his track record of raising money and galvanizing grassroots support would best situate the Democratic Party to win across the country. Ellison also cited the support of thousands of people who signed petitions supporting his bid to lead the DNC. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Ellison shortly after he announced his candidacy in November, also shot back at Biden's endorsement by reaffirming his support for Ellison. "The question is simple: Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democracy party?" Sanders said in a statement.  

Ellison spoke with Mic after he appeared with Gold Star father Khizr Khan, members of Congress, immigrant advocates and others on Wednesday afternoon. Those gathered for the event blasted Trump's immigration order from last week, saying it was illegally targeting Muslims from entering the United States.

The man who became famous for holding up a pocket Constitution at the Democratic National Convention and asking Trump if he had read the document called on Republican leaders to accomplish safety and security for the U.S. reasonably — "not this way."

"They know the constitution better than I do," Khan said of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "I simply ask them to remain in support of the values of this country — which is welcoming immigrants." 

Khan said he did not endorse anyone in the DNC race, but had praise for Ellison nonetheless. "He's a wonderful leader, I admire him," Khan said. "I appreciate him."