Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a former national Democratic Party chairman, on Thursday endorsed South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the current campaign for the job.
Buttigieg, 35, is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and a favorite of those who believe the Democratic National Committee needs to turn to a new generation of leaders after the 2016 electoral losses and a decade-long weakening in the party's standing in state capitols.
Rendell, in a statement, said Buttigieg could heal the divisions within the party illuminated by the tough primary fight between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year.
"We need someone who understands the needs and values of middle-class Americans and what that means in different parts of the country," Rendell said. "Someone who will be an innovative thinker not wedded to solutions proffered only inside the Beltway. We also need someone who can bring the party together and lead us to victory at all levels."
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland also backed Buttigieg on Thursday.
The front-runners in the race are former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was on Clinton's short list of potential running mates, and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, endorsed by Sanders and the AFL-CIO. Neither has secured a majority of votes from the 447 DNC members who will elect the new chair Feb. 25 in Atlanta.
Rendell, who was chairman during the 2000 election after two terms as mayor of Philadelphia, praised both men, but said Buttigieg offers "new energy" and a vision for winning back the working-class voters who formed the backbone of President Trump's electoral coalition.
In his endorsement, Rendell diverged from Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen, who backs Perez. Unlike the former governor, Groen has a vote as a current member of the DNC, though Rendell is expected to lobby his contacts on the committee for Buttigieg.
"The status quo has failed us, and the Washington party structure has let outreach to once-reliable Democratic communities like Youngstown take a back seat to fund-raisers in New York and California," Strickland said in a statement on Buttigieg.